Friday, April 16, 2010

Yankees in Michigan

Writing in the April issue of the online history magazine Common-Place, Notre Dame professor-to-be Catherine Cangany isn't too enthusiastic about a new book by James Schwartz, currently at Eastern Illinois University, Conflict on the Michigan Frontier: Yankee and Borderland Cultures, 1815-1840 (De Kalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2009. 192 pp., $30.00).

I have not seen the book yet. Cangany writes

Schwartz's argument is this: with the influx of unprecedented numbers of Yankees into the Great Lakes Basin after the war (especially after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825), Michigan's long-standing "hybrid" or "borderland" traits underwent a systematic "civilizing" process (4, 92-94). East-Coast newcomers waged war on the "savageness" of Indians, the "wildness" of backcountry whites, and the "lawlessness" of the West. They were determined to eradicate "inferior" and "dangerous" cultural practices and political attitudes, and in their stead impose order, restraint, and authority.
In her view he doesn't say enough about divisions among the Yankees, and gives readers little chance to hear the voices of the people, including those of French descent, they were trying to reform or remove. I look forward to being able to have an opinion. In the meantime, read the whole thing!

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