The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History

Volume 3: Transcontinental America, 1850–1915

D. W. Meinig

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This is the third of four volumes in a series acclaimed by both historians and geographers for its breathtaking scope and originality. D. W. Meinig continues his riveting account of America’s interwoven history and geography, describing the expanding country’s development from the mid-nineteenth century to 1915. To accompany his interpretation of America’s geographic evolution, Meinig offers forty superb new maps and forty-five other illustrations. Each original map enhances our historical understanding of the patterns, features, and themes of American history.

The book begins with the struggle over where to build the Pacific railway and fix the nation’s first transcontinental axis. Meinig portrays in detail the settlement of the diverse regions of the American West and how these many “Wests” were incorporated into the growing nation. He then examines the South as an imperial province and the dominance of the American Core over an increasingly consolidated nation. In conclusion, the author considers America’s imperial pressures upon Canada and Mexico, the country’s overt expansions in the Caribbean and the Pacific, and the Panama Canal as a transcontinental completion.

D. W. Meinig is Maxwell Research Professor of Geography at Syracuse University and the author of Volumes 1 and 2 of The Shaping of America.

A selection of the History Book Club

“The geographical development of the nation in this period comes through with a fullness and power that make this book a compelling read for anyone with any curiosity about the American experience on this continent.”—Michael P. Conzen, University of Chicago

“Few scholars show such bold vision anymore. . . . Transcontinental America proves that bold syntheses of the myriad focused and micro-historical studies of past decades can be clear, insightful, and expand our understanding of the United States in North America. Only a lifetime of scholarship and a nexial mind can achieve so much. . . . Specialists and students in many disciplines, as well as lay readers who seek to comprehend the sprawling American experience will profit from this installment of The Shaping of America.”Reginald C. Stuart, Canadian Journal of History

"The doyen of North American historical geography, Meinig offers a distinctive interpretation that depends much on his literary skill, spatial imagination, and flair for profound simplification. . . . [His] arguments are sustained by [numerous] maps and . . . illustrations, which act as didactic devices for Meinig’s insightful analysis."—Choice

"This is the third in a four part history of America that must become one of the standard sources for understanding that country’s history. . . . Anyone prepared to devote a good many hours to reading will find he emerges with a refreshing new and solid understanding of American history."—Contemporary Review

“Volume 3 of The Shaping of America continues Donald Meinig’s panoramic view of the historical geography of the United States, in which he relates the human geographical effect of historical forces on the American nation. . . . This volume, however, has particular resonance for economic geographers, for it lays out the critical historical underpinnings of the regional economic geography of the United States in 1915—all with a perspective gained form one scholar’s lifetime of insightful geographic interpretation.”—Joseph S. Wood, Economic Geography

“[A] remarkable and masterful volume. . . . Meining’s powerful example will inspire a generation yet to come of cultural and historical geographers.”—Donald McDonald, Geographical Association

“A brief review cannot do justice to a book of this magnitude, nor can it convey the sheer enjoyment of perusing a tome that is scholarly yet engaging, erudite yet readable. Critical readers will find much to praise and little to criticize in volume 3 of Meinig’s opus. . . . Meinig adroitly joins local detail with a broader regional overview in a magnificent example of the scholar’s craft. The book is required reading for any serious student of the American scene, and geographers will want to have it on their shelves, not only as a reference work on the historical geography of America but also as an inspiration and a source of guidance for their own or their graduate students’ research. It will be an excellent textbook for upper-division or graduate classes in geography or history, and it will be an invaluable and perennial reference for anyone who writes about the American West.”—Richard H. Jackson, Geographical Review

“The third volume of D. W. Meining’s ambitious historical geography of North America covers the crucial years when the United States . . . took the vast transcontinental step that brought the United States . . . into being as a world power. It is a long story, very skillfully and effectively conveyed in a concise and readable form; it brings out, step by step, the extraordinary process by which the United States . . . undertook the formation of new collective entities; districts, territories, and finally states, which were gradually knitted into the Union.”—David B. Quinn, Journal of American History

"The Shaping of America will stand for generations as a research and publishing milestone. Its scope is simply breathtaking. . . . There can be no doubt about the superb and sustained scholarship exhibited by The Shaping of America. It is a truly astonishing achievement. . . . Meinig's project is simply stunning in its ambition as well as outstanding in its achievement. Its scope and its completion mark it as one of the most remarkable products of North American geography during the twentieth century."—Alan R.H.Baker, Journal of Historical Geography

"One of modern geography's most substantial achievements. . . . The project, taken as a whole and at face value, evokes the same sort of awe as (and many of the superlatives used to describe) the Grand Canyon. . . . The resulting volumes are notable feats of condensation, integration and interpretation. Each rests upon prodigious reading and the intelligent assimilation of arguments new and old advanced by scholars from a number of disciplines. In every volume, indeed it is no exaggeration to say on every page of every volume, Meinig writes with skill and care. . . . There can be no doubt that it is a remarkable achievement, one of the great accomplishments of twentieth century American geography. Meinig can only be admired for the scope of this ambitious project and the consummate skill and dogged resolve with which he brought it to fruition. He has painted a coherent and often compelling picture on a canvas far larger than most geographers have thought to address and which hardly any seem likely to engage in the future."—Graeme Wynn, Journal of Historical Geography

"Third of four volumes of a sweeping work by the nation’s leading historical geographer. The author of Atlantic America and Continental America gives us another extraordinary book, this one about the impact of the acquisition of a western empire upon the U.S. and how railways—'a space-conquering instrument of revolutionary possibilities’—helped to reknit the nation, fractured by Civil War, back together again. . . . In characteristically powerful prose, Meinig offers a major retelling of the nation’s emergence to world power."—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“It is hard to pick up any of Donald Meinig’s many books and not have the word ‘magisterial’ come to mind. . . . As in all his earlier books, Transcontinental America showcases Meining’s skill as a scholar who is able to synthesize creatively a huge body of material. The result is a . . . highly readable book.”—Carlos A. Schwantes, Oregon Historical Quarterly

“[Meining’s] approach is uniquely geographic and will provide a welcome new perspective to readers considering certain topics of enduring historical interest. The book will be particularly useful to those who seek to understand the Northwest’s formative years. Meinig aptly illuminates many of the processes that brought the frontier to a close as major settlements appeared in the West and were rapidly integrated into economies and infrastructures operating at national scales. . . . It is a telling tale, and few writers can tell it as well as Donald Meinig.”—Douglas Deur, Pacific Northwest Quarterly

“This series is an important work for geographers and historians interested in our past, and provides a basis for the understanding of the present as well. When completed, this four-volume set will form a valuable reference work for many well beyond the scholarly community. I look forward to the final volume.”—Elliot McIntire, Yearbook of the Association of Pacific Coast Geographers

“Professor Meinig here presents his third in a projected four-volume study of the geographical ‘shaping of America’. This volume, like its predecessors, is magisterial in scope and concept. It brings a rich tradition of regional geography to bear upon the entire reach of American cultural history, with wonderful effect. . . . This book is handsome in every way.”—Clarence Mondale, American Studies International

Winner of the Charles P. Daly medal given by the American Geographical Society

D. W. Meinig is the recipient of the Association of American Geographers Presidential Achievement Award
ISBN: 9780300082906
Publication Date: April 10, 2000
458 pages, x
70 b/w illus.
The Shaping of America

A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History, Volume 1: Atlantic America 1492-1800

D. W. Meinig

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The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History

Volume 2: Continental America, 1800–1867

D. W. Meinig

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