Cover image for Frontier Illinois
Frontier Illinois
Davis, James Edward, 1940-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xx, 515 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
F545 .D38 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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""O, this is a delightful country!"" one newly arrived settler wrote to a friend back East. Indeed, as James E. Davis shows, many newcomers found Illinois a hospitable and relatively peaceful place in which to start a new life. In this sweeping history of the making of the state, Davis tells the story of Illinois from the Ice Age to the eve of the Civil War. He describes the earliest Native American civilizations, the coming of LaSalle and Joliet and the founding of the French colony, the brief history of British Illinois, and the complex history of subsequent settlement that brought distinct cultural traditions to Illinois.

A major theme of this book is the relative absence of violence, at least after the Blackhawk War of 1832, even over explosive issues such as slavery. Davis treats these developments in careful detail, while keeping the reader mindful of the experiences of Illinois' ordinary people.

Author Notes

James E. Davis is William and Charlotte Gardner Professor of History and Professor of Geography at Illinois College

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Davis (history and geography, Illinois College) defines the frontier period in Illinois history as extending from prehistory through 1860. One in a series of state surveys covering the Trans-Appalachian frontier, this study concentrates on the social history of the early 19th century, broadly defining social history as virtually anything except politics. Yet political activity receives attention when related to extensive cultural and intellectual trends and movements. Abraham Lincoln is given a few more index entries than "indolence," but "food" has more than both combined. Davis buttresses broad generalizations with well-chosen, concrete examples. Readers learn how early settlers defined Yankees and why they complained about them. Illinois towns, Davis explains, frequently expanded westward because prevailing winds normally carried embers, smells, and noise eastward. Interesting findings include statistics indicating the relative absence of violence in early Illinois. Race and gender issues receive more attention than they do in traditional pioneer history. Drawing on more than 70 manuscript collections, an impressive array of recent journal articles, and a variety of other sources, Davis provides an incisive portrait of prairie society. Readable, discursive notes. A fresh and sophisticated survey of early Illinois. All levels. J. Y. Simon; Southern Illinois University at Carbondale

Table of Contents

ForewordWalter Nugent and Malcolm J. Rohrbough
A Note on Quotations, Citations, and Sources
Part I Vast Lands and Contending Peoples
Chapter 1 The Shaping of Settlement
Chapter 2 Commingling Cultures
Chapter 3 The South and War for Empire
Chapter 4 Light British Rule
Part II American Presence
Chapter 5 A Tenuous Conquest
Chapter 6 Firm Foundations
Chapter 7 Rumblings Across the Land
Part III Statehood and Troubles
Chapter 8 Shaping a State
Chapter 9 Migration, Trials, and Tragedy
Part IV The Formative 1830s
Chapter 10 Excitement in the Land
Chapter 11 Transportation, Towns, and Institutions
Chapter 12 Social Clashes and Economic Collapse
Part V Cooperation and Conflict
Chapter 13 Race, Ethnicity, and Class
Chapter 14 Conflicts and Community
Part VI Frontier Illinois Fades
Chapter 15 Ties that Bind
Chapter 16 Changing Ecology, Evolving Society
Works Cited