Ohio History Journal

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Book Reviews

Book Reviews




Indiana History: A Book of Readings. Compiled and edited by Ralph D. Gray.

(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995. xiv + 442p.; index. $39.95

cloth; $22.95 paper.)


None of the states of the Old Northwest has more persistently embodied the

Midwestern middle-class ideal of small towns and commercial agriculture than

Indiana. Unlike Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, or Wisconsin, Indiana did not develop

a huge industrial center.  No Chicago, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit, or

Cincinnati emerged in the nineteenth century to counterbalance, either culturally

or politically, its overwhelmingly rural and relatively homogeneous character.

Both Indiana's charm and its challenges have largely followed from this anoma-

lous pattern of development. There is in the towns and small cities of Indiana a

strong attachment to the verities of middle-class culture-or the values of home

and family, religion and voluntarism, and to traditional (at least since the middle

of the nineteenth century) notions of gender and race relations. Hoosiers, for

good and ill, have largely kept faith with their ancestors.

This steadfastness, however, has fostered a profound tension between the claims

of tradition and the attractions of progress. Hoosiers have tended to welcome eco-

nomic improvements such as railroads (as long as they are not too expensive)

even as they remain wary of the social changes they bring in their wake. The con-

stant issues of Indiana politics-transportation, commercial development, educa-

tion, and race-have engaged residents of Indiana in endless controversies (and

occasional violence) about how to preserve as much of their past as possible

without sacrificing prosperity, celebrating provincialism, or embracing intoler-


Fortune has blessed Indiana by providing it with excellent historians. For more

than a century, the Indiana Historical Society has preserved the records of its past

and made them easily accessible through its many publications. Meanwhile,

dozens of scholars (both within and without the academy) have devoted their pro-

fessional lives to chronicling Indiana's history. An outstanding example of their

work is Emma Lou Thornbrough's The Negro in Indiana, a section of which ap-

pears in this volume. Originally published in 1957, the book is a model combina-

tion of careful scholarship and high moral purpose. Few states rival Indiana in the

collective achievement of its historians. And few have a major university press

with a strong tradition of commitment to the publication of local and regional his-


Among the most distinguished of recent Hoosier historians is Ralph D. Gray,

professor of history at Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis. In

this excellent volume he has collected generous excerpts form the work of dozens

of his colleagues, living and dead. Together, they outline and reflect on the major

issues in and characteristics of Indiana history from the eighteenth-century world

of the Miamis and the French to the present. Readers can learn about pioneer life,

the Civil War, the Ku Klux Klan, and a variety of other subjects, including high

school basketball. The quality of the history is remarkably high throughout.

Still, it in no way diminishes the achievement of individuals to say that the book

as a whole is something more than the sum of its parts.