O, this is a delightful country! one newly arrived settler wrote to a friend back East. Indeed, as the author shows, many newcomers found Illiis a hospitable and relatively peaceful place in which to start a new life. He tells a sweeping story of the making of the state from the Ice Age to the eve of the Civil War. he describes the earliest Indiana civilisations, the coming of La Salle and Joliet and the founding of the French colony, the brief history of British Illiis, and the complex history of subsequent settlement which brought distinct cultural traditions to Illiis. A major theme of this book is the relative absence of violence, at least after the Blackhawk War of 1832, eve over explosive issues as slavery. throughout, the author keeps the reader mindful of Illiis' ordinary people. The author begins his volume on the frontier period in Illiis history with three eye-witness accounts of the settlement process during its highest tide, the 1830s. We hear Sara Aiken, of rthern New York, David Henshow, of Massachusetts, and Charles Watts, an Englishman, describe what Illiis life was really like in those days, and why Sarah wrote to a friend back home, O, this is a delightful country! He then looks far back into the Illiis of the glaciers, and the series of Indian civilisations that changed th eland. These included the villages around Cahokia, where 20,000 people lived in the year 1100C.E., more than in any city in Europe. The French explorers La Salle and Joliet appear next, the precursors of other French men and women who created stable settlements like Kaskaskia and the rest of the old French colonial zone, in uneasy accommodation with the Indians. The brief history of British Illiis, and the Revolutionary War which assured Illiis American future, then follow. He then traces the complex settlement process, first from Kentucky to the south, and later from New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to the east, bringing distinct cultural traditions to Illiis. One of his most important findings, and a major theme of this book, is the relative absence o violence, at least after the Blackhawk War of 1832 which removed the last substantial Indian presence from the state. Among whites, however, whether they came from the upland South or from Yankee roots, struggles over land, court houses, county seats, railroads, markets, and even the explosive fugitive slave question were resolved with a minimum of bloodshed. The author explains all of these events in Illiis' early history and many more. railroads started criss-crossing the state in the 1840s; Chicago began its role as the gateway between East and West; and in the 1850s, on the eve of the Civil War, Illiis passed beyond its frontier period.
James E. Davis is William and Charlotte Gardner Professor of History and Professor of Geography at Illinois College. He is the author of FRONTIER AMERICA, 1800-1840: A COMPARATIVE DEMOGRAPHIC ANALYSIS OF THE SETTLEMENT PROCESS (1977), DREAMS TO DUST (1989), and a number of articles, monographs, edited works, and reviews. Professor Davis is recipient of the Harry J. Dunbaugh Distinguished Professor Award for outstanding teaching (1981 and 1993) and was an NEH Fellow in St. Petersburg and Moscow, where he studied Russian architecture and art. He currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of the Illinois State Historical Society and as a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the JOURNAL OF ILLINOIS HISTORY.