In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Diversity and Accommodation Essays on the Cultural Composition of the Virginia Frontier Edited by MichaelJ. Puglisi University ofTennessee Press, 1997 310 pp. Cloth, $45.00 Reviewed by John C. Willis, associate professor of history at the University of the South at Sewanee, Tennessee. He is coeditor, with Edward L. Ayers, of The Edge ofthe South: Life in Nineteenth-Century Virginia ( 1 99 1 ) and author of the forthcoming Forgotten Time: The Ya^oo-Mississippi DeltaAfter the Civil War. Emory, Virginia, played host to a polyglot gathering of locally focused intellectuals in October 1992. Over a span of two days, scholars interested in frontier Virginia met there to consider, debate, and reevaluate settlement of the Old Dominion 's early westward fringes. From this ferment, editor Michael J. Puglisi of Marian College drew forth the contributions ofnine historians, two geographers, two archeologists, and a linguist. No doubt, "Diversity and Accommodation" seemed an accurate tide for these disparate perspectives (and a true description of the editor's job in fashioning them together). The book reveals how much the contributors have in common, despite their divergent occupations: an appropriate interdisciplinary bent; an eagerness to avoid habitual stereotypes oftheir subjects; and a conviction that frontiers should not be approached as boundary lines between civilization and barbarism, but regarded as "mixing zones, where different cultures, environments, experiences, economies, motives, and perspectives come into contact." Puglisi's introduction to the volume announces the contributors' opposition to "images of ethnic and cultural separation, of German clannishness and Scotch-Irish individualism," and their shared conclusion that "culture and ethnicity were important identifiers , but the groups did not exist in isolation from one another, whether physically , socially, or economically." While sweeping surveys ofthe backcountry have sometimes depended on simplistic generalizations, studies of individual actions within identifiable localities (like those in this collection's essays) might be expected to reveal specific points of exchange, mixing, and accommodation. In the first ofthe book's five sections, "Toward a Social History ofthe Virginia Frontier," Robert D. Mitchell purposefully advocates local studies as a means of achieving "a new geographical history . . . [to] reconstruct places 'from the ground up.'" One of the geographers represented in the collection, Mitchell reminds readers that even remote glades on the Virginia frontier were "subject to Reviews 87 historically contingent processes." To comprehend these changes and their import , scholars must be "more sensitive to matters ofplace, to the location ofphenomena , to the environmental dimensions of new encounters, to the settlement landscapes created by colonization, and to the transformation ofplace in the creation of new societies." While Mitchell does not specify how to prevent this renewed empiricism from devolving into particularism, he clearly believes that no history offrontier individuals can succeed unless firmly grounded in the subjects' natural setting. The collection's second section is much more concerned with man-made contexts . Although vaguely entided "Cultural Perspectives in the Shenandoah Valley ," it concerns the changing group identities ofvarious eighteenth-century settlers . Historian Warren R. Hofstra's work on ethnicity and community formation provides an excellent framework for the discussion. His examination ofthe Shenandoah 's development not only conveys the general stages ofbackcountry settlement and town growth between 1730 and 1 800, it also provides vivid examples of individual and family experiences on the frontier. Without denying the importance ofethnicity (or the persistence of ethnic tension), he suggests that families' strategies for survival were at least as significant in shaping the society as were national origins. Essays by Richard K. MacMaster and Kenneth W. Keller provide in-depth consideration of two backcountry communities. The collection's diversity emerges most clearly in a problematic third section devoted to frontier Virginia's non-European inhabitants. Natives and African Americans, readers are pointedly reminded, also contributed to the cultural mix, economic change, and social constructions of western Virginia. Four essays by historians, archeologists, and a linguist consider how the arrival of European settlers affected aboriginal ways and led to slaveholding. This section would have been more gripping, however, if its authors had kept the interaction of cultures and economies—a major theme of the book—in mind. That perspective might have banished sentences like, "Notoriously ambitious to own slaves, the ScotchIrish eagerly adopted the institution...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1534-1488
Print ISSN
1068-8218
Pages
pp. 87-89
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.