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The Planting of New Virginia: Settlement and Landscape in the Shenandoah Valley (Creating the North American Landscape)by Warren R. Hofstra
Synopses & Reviews
Warren Hofstra offers the first comprehensive geographical history of one of North America's most significant frontier areas. By examining the early landscape history of the Shenandoah Valley in its regional and global context, Hofstra sheds new light on social, economic, political, and intellectual developments that affected both the region and the entire North American Atlantic world. An important addition to scholarship of the geography and history of colonial and early America, "The Planting of New Virginia" rethinks American history and the evolution of the American landscape in the colonial era.
"The research that lies behind some books simply puts others to shame. The Planting of New Virginia is one of these impressive works. The product of a life's work, Warren Hofstra traces the development of European settlement in the Shenandoah Valley by examining the many multivalent influences that converged to create a specific and lasting landscape in western Virginia. Hofstra's field of vision is impressive. Not only does he pay particular attention to the consequences of contingent events like clashes between Indians and settlers, but his causative model also ranges widely from the abstract — such as the economy of the Atlantic world and turbulent imperial politics — to the more concrete — including the centralizing power of county lines, courts, and roads. In other words, the omniscience of The Planting of New Virginia offers readers a fascinating picture of the ways in which 18th-century Virginians crafted, controlled, and imagined their landscapes. There is, however, one thorny problem with the argument, focusing on the overall importance of the Shenandoah Valley. Hofstra contends that the model of dispersed farms surrounding market towns that developed in the valley constituted a symbol that would come to embody what was quintessentially American in small-town, main-street communities, many of which still populate the land today (325). But whether or not this argument is valid — and Hofstra does present solid evidence to back up his case — the presentation is a bit misleading because the author neglects to acknowledge the elephant in the living room: the New England town model. Part of the significance of Hofstra's thesis is to see a Southern influence on that 19th-century Main Street U.S.A. stereotype, but by simply ignoring what historians have largely agreed upon — that the town model of Massachusetts and Connecticut that spread through northern Ohio and into the Midwest had a powerful influence on that development — the reader is left to wonder whether this isn't special pleading. This qualm aside, The Planting of New Virginia is an important work that challenges early American historians to interrogate their topics from all avenues — especially from the ground up." Reviewed by Robert G. Parkinson, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
In the eighteenth century, Virginia's Shenandoah Valley became a key corridor for America's westward expansion through the Cumberland Gap. Known as New Virginia, the region west of the Blue Ridge Mountains set off the world of the farmer from that of the planter, grain and livestock production from tobacco culture, and a free labor society from a slave labor society. In The Planting of New Virginia Warren Hofstra offers the first comprehensive geographical history of one of North America's most significant frontier areas. By examining the early landscape history of the Shenandoah Valley in its regional and global context, Hofstra sheds new light on social, economic, political, and intellectual developments that affected both the region and the entire North American Atlantic world.
Paying special attention to the Shenandoah Valley's backcountry frontier culture, Hofstra shows how that culture played a unique role in the territorial struggle between European empires and Native American nations. He weaves together the broad cultural and geographic threads that underlie the story of the valley's place in the early European settlement of eastern North America. He also reveals the distinctive ways in which settlers shaped the valley's geography during the eighteenth century, a pattern that evolved from discrete open-country neighborhoods into a complex town and country settlement that would come to characterize — and in many ways epitomize — middle America.
An important addition to scholarship of the geography and history of colonial and early America, The Planting of New Virginia, rethinks American history and the evolution of the American landscape in the colonial era.
"A thorough, wide-ranging analysis of the complex issues surrounding the white settlement of the Shenandoah Valley." — William and Mary Quarterly
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