- Book Notes
A History of America in 100 Maps. By Susan Schulten. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018. Pp. 272. $35.00, ISBN 978-0-226-45861-8.) A History of America in 100 Maps is, most obviously, lovely to look at. Beautifully rendered images are paired with (but not overwhelmed by) informative blurbs of text. But this book is more than a simple coffee-table curiosity. Many of the maps do not feature the United States, or even the geographies that would one day become the nation. Liberating the U.S. past from its spatial and temporal borders, Susan Schulten uses cartography to situate this history in a thoroughly global context.
Such a framework is not only geographical. Schulten uses the selected maps to allow for a plethora of historical perspectives—indigenous and colonial, imperial and personal, demographic and environmental—that allow for a nuanced understanding of the nation's history and historical development. These maps are never impositions of modern perspectives on the past; rather, they reflect how a variety of professional and amateur cartographers perceived their environment. Schulten provides detailed descriptions of each map and their historical contexts and significance through her text. All told, A History of America in 100 Maps proves an engaging and intriguing account of American history. [Bryson R. T. Kisner, Rice University]
Eavesdropping on Texas History. Edited by Mary L. Scheer. (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2017. Pp. [x], 342. $29.95, ISBN 978-1-57441-675-6.) Eavesdropping on Texas History offers a tourist's guide to the state's history. Its contributors provide brief tours not only of storied occasions, such as the 1836 siege of the Alamo and President Lyndon B. Johnson's tragically unexpected inauguration, but also of lesser-known events, such as the passage of the 1967 Marital Property Act and Caddo Lake's mysterious formation. These are vignettes of history rather than a history through vignettes. Yet the absence of an overarching narrative is no detriment. The collection's conceit—that Texas's history is not only complex and interesting but also odd and fun—allows for an engaging and enjoyable reading experience that stands on its own merits while whetting the reader's appetite for further scholarly exploration of the book's subjects.
The collection's weaknesses are its gaps. Its essays largely reflect the traditional interests and biases of Texas history. No entries center Hispanic Texans' history, and only two touch on Native Americans. Furthermore, efforts to fill such gaps do not always impress. An essay on an 1877 gunfight, one of two entries concerned with African Americans' experiences in Texas, reads like something from a thankfully bygone era's historiography. However, the volume does make significant contributions to environmental history in particular, and Nancy E. Baker's essay on the aforementioned 1967 law explores a pivotal moment in Texas women's history. Despite its flaws, Eavesdropping on Texas History provides a largely informative and entertaining excursion into the state's multifaceted past. [Bryson R. T. Kisner, Rice University] [End Page 512]
It's All Done Gone: Arkansas Photographs from the Farm Security Administration Collection, 1935–1943. Edited by Patsy G. Watkins. (Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 2018. Pp. xvi, 237. $39.95, ISBN 978-1-68226-063-0.); Images of Depression-Era Louisiana: The FSA Photographs of Ben Shahn, Russell Lee, and Marion Post Wolcott. Edited by Bryan Giemza and Maria Herbert-Leiter. (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2017. Pp. xii, 148. $39.95, ISBN 978-0-8071-6795-3.) Of the New Deal's public works projects, the efforts of the Farm Security Administration (FSA) to catalog and document life in the United States have proved both remarkable and enduring. Many people are familiar with some of the FSA's better-known photographers, such as Walker Evans, and with some of the project's more iconic images, including Dorothea Lange's Migrant Mother (1936), but the full sweep of the FSA collection is almost too grand to contemplate: between 1935 and 1943, FSA photographers captured approximately 250,000 images of the United States during the Great Depression.
It's All Done Gone: Arkansas Photographs from...