Our Common Country: Family Farming, Culture and Community in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest / Edition 1

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Overview

Our Common Country
Family Farming, Culture, and Community in the Nineteenth-Century Midwest

Susan Sessions Rugh

Examines the evolution of family farm culture in the 19th-century Midwest.

In the 19th century, agrarian ideology flourished in the Midwest, where countless settler families carved homesteads out of the prairie and nurtured ideals that we consider distinctively American—independence, democracy, community, piety. Our Common Country explains the making of the family farm culture in the heartland by telling the story of families in rural Fountain Green, Illinois, from settlement to century’s end. It presents both a richly textured social history and a compelling narrative of people the reader will come to know. The book examines three themes: changing cultural identities, the expansion of the market, and the adoption of class-based gender ideologies, featuring a major political conflict in each stage of market expansion—the Mormon troubles, the Civil War, and the Grange protest—to highlight the transformations that took place.

Susan Sessions Rugh claims that, despite the Midwest’s reputation of cultural homogeneity, rural society was an amalgamation of culturally distinct groups of white, native-born farm people. She shows how civil society and religious community in small towns like Fountain Green sustained an agrarian patriarchy. As expanding corporate power and gender tensions threatened rural society in the last third of the 19th century, Rugh argues that the out-migration of rural people ironically diffused agrarian values throughout the nation.

Demonstrating the broader implications of this story, Susan Rugh connects events in Fountain Green to larger regional and national developments in politics, the economy, and society. Our Common Country convincingly demonstrates that the transformation of the countryside was as important as the rise of the city to the evolution of the Middle West and the making of modern America. By so doing it argues for the vitality of rural history to understanding our past, and to appreciating the meaning of pastoralism to American identity.

Susan Sessions Rugh earned her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1993, and from 1993 to 1997 she was on the faculty at St. Cloud State University in Minnesota. Currently she is Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University.

Midwestern History and Culture Series
James H. Madison and Andrew R. L. Cayton, general editors

June 2001
312 pages, 12 b&w photos, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, bibl., index, append.
cloth 0-253-33910-3 $35.00 s / £26.50

Indiana University Press

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Editorial Reviews

Choice

"[S]pecialists in rural, agricultural, and Midwest history, as well as those interested in 19th-century gender studies or the economics of the development of market capitalism, will find [this book] worthwhile reading." —Choice, January 2002

Choice - K. Blaser

This is a history of the small agricultural community of Fountain Green, located in west central Illinois, during the middle of the 19th century. The focus is on the change from a subsistence—oriented Jeffersonian agrarianism during the early settlement stage to a full—scale market capitalist agriculture in the period after the Civil War. Two major subthemes are the mixed ethnic and cultural roots of the community—southern, Yankee, and a predominant Middle Atlantic element from Pennsylvania—and changes in family and gender relationships that gradually eroded traditional patriarchy. Three major conflicts threatened Fountain Green's sense of community—the removal of the Mormons in the 1840s, the Civil War, and the Grange movement in the 1870s and 1880s. This latest volume in the publisher's Midwestern History and Culture series is based on an unusually diverse range of sources. While the scope of this work is rather narrow, and it occasionally shows signs of its origin as a dissertation, specialists in rural, agricultural, and Midwest history, as well as those interested in 19th—century gender studies or the economics of the development of market capitalism, will find it worthwhile reading. Upper—division undergraduates and above.K. Blaser, Wayne State College, Choice, January 2002

From the Publisher
This is a history of the small agricultural community of Fountain Green, located in west central Illinois, during the middle of the 19th century. The focus is on the change from a subsistence—oriented Jeffersonian agrarianism during the early settlement stage to a full—scale market capitalist agriculture in the period after the Civil War. Two major subthemes are the mixed ethnic and cultural roots of the community—southern, Yankee, and a predominant Middle Atlantic element from Pennsylvania—and changes in family and gender relationships that gradually eroded traditional patriarchy. Three major conflicts threatened Fountain Green's sense of community—the removal of the Mormons in the 1840s, the Civil War, and the Grange movement in the 1870s and 1880s. This latest volume in the publisher's Midwestern History and Culture series is based on an unusually diverse range of sources. While the scope of this work is rather narrow, and it occasionally shows signs of its origin as a dissertation, specialists in rural, agricultural, and Midwest history, as well as those interested in 19th—century gender studies or the economics of the development of market capitalism, will find it worthwhile reading. Upper—division undergraduates and above.K. Blaser, Wayne State College, Choice, January 2002

"[S]pecialists in rural, agricultural, and Midwest history, as well as those interested in 19th-century gender studies or the economics of the development of market capitalism, will find [this book] worthwhile reading." —Choice, January 2002

Choice

"[S]pecialists in rural, agricultural, and Midwest history, as well as those interested in 19th-century gender studies or the economics of the development of market capitalism, will find [this book] worthwhile reading." —Choice, January 2002

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780253339102
  • Publisher: Indiana University Press
  • Publication date: 4/28/2001
  • Series: Midwestern History and Culture Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 6.12 (w) x 9.25 (h) x 0.93 (d)

Meet the Author

Susan Sessions Rugh earned her doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1993, and from 1993-1997 was on the faculty at St. Cloud Stated University in Minnesota. Currently she is Assistant Professor of History at Brigham Young University.

Indiana University Press

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Table of Contents

Contents

Introduction
1. Collected Springs
2. Conflict in the Countryside
3. "To Keep the Family Together"
4. "A Greater Pleasure in Living"
5. "Awful Calamities Now upon Us"
6. "A Market at His Door"
7. "Ours Is No Slouch of a Village"
Conclusion
Appendices
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Indiana University Press

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