- Across This Land: A Regional Geography of the United States and Canada, Second Edition by John C. Hudson
. John C. Hudson. Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 2020. 530 pp.; maps, diagrs., photos, ills., notes, bibliog., and index. $69.95 paperback (ISBN 9781421437583).
Regional geography presents a framework to explore ways in which the diverse thematic/systematic processes of physical and human geography construct, deconstruct, and reconstruct dynamic characteristics of particular places and regions. In the second [End Page 362] edition of Across This Land: A Regional Geography of the United States and Canada, Professor John C. Hudson provides a welcome update to his original sweeping North America regional geography tome first published in 2002. In the preface, Hudson notes that “this book is a long-overdue revised edition of a regional geography of the United States and Canada developed over almost a half a century teaching the subject at Northwestern University” (p. xv). As Hudson observes, regional geography is a way of applying knowledge from various geography topics and interpreting their relevance for distinct regions. Learning to read the landscape about such processes in particular places is part of the process of gaining a sense of place about locales and the broader forces fostering regional change over time. As such, regional geography is an important tool in the cultivation of a well-rounded geography education.
As with many books about the history and geography of North America, Hudson’s metaphorical “road trip” proceeds generally from east to west across the continent. Specifically, Hudson guides readers on a journey across North America through ten major regions (the separate “parts” of the book)—beginning with Atlantic Canada and Quebec (Part I) and concluding with the Pacific Realm (Part X)—and 27 sub-regions (each a distinct chapter). His book differs from other texts about North America in that it takes a highly place-specific approach, with vivid narratives about particular geographic processes as they occur on specific local landscapes within each chapter sub-region. Throughout the book, readers will find physical and human geography themes described within the context of specific places. Each of the 27 sub-region chapters focuses on ways in which the natural environment shapes human activity, with particular emphasis on physical, historical, and political geography as lenses through which to examine sub-regions.
While much could be said about the book’s ten major regions, how does Across This Land represent, portray, and engage with the southeastern United States? Readers first venture into areas of the Southeast with Part III about the Upland South. Here, the narrative proceeds into the sub-regions of the Southern Appalachians, the Interior Low Plateaus, and the Ozarks and the Ouachitas. In Chapter 7 about the Southern Appalachians, for instance, readers learn about human-environment interactions in the South via the physical geography processes that led to certain industrial activities in Appalachia, such as the Appalachian coal fields, and the particular physical geography of central Alabama that led to the founding and growth of Birmingham. Essays in this chapter also illustrate the physiography of the Great Valley of Appalachia, the Smoky Mountains, and the Tennessee Valley. Readers engage with aspects of cultural geography in the Southeast via an essay on Appalachian folk culture. Subsequently, Chapter 8 about the Interior Low Plateaus discusses such sub-regions as the Nashville Basin, the Pennyroyal Plateau, the Bluegrass of Kentucky, the Lower Ohio Valley, and the Middle Mississippi Valley.
The journey through the southeastern US continues with “The Lowland South” (Part IV), including the Southeastern Piedmont and the Coastal Plain, the Florida Peninsula, and the Alluvial Mississippi Valley. In Chapter 10, for instance, covering the Southeastern Piedmont and the Coastal Plain, readers engage with the historical geography of the region’s early settlement, human-environment interaction related to the tobacco industry, [End Page 363] and urban and economic geography of urban-industrial growth in the Southeast. Other essays further explore land use patterns of the coastal plain, the Low Country and the Sea Islands, and the piedmont and coastal plain cotton industry. Meanwhile, Chapter 12, about the...