In the last three decades North Carolina has witnessed a remarkable growth in population, economic development, and political importance, and it now ranks as the tenth most populous state in the Union. The Tar Heel State: A History of North Carolina constitutes the most comprehensive and inclusive single-volume chronicle of the state’s storied past to date, culminating with an attentive look at recent events that have transformed North Carolina into a southern megastate. Integrating tales of famous pioneers, statesmen, soldiers, farmers, captains of industry, activists, and community leaders with more marginalized voices, including those of Native Americans, African Americans, and women, Milton Ready gives readers a view of North Carolina that encompasses perspectives and personalities from the coast, "tobacco road," the piedmont, and the mountains in this sweeping history of the Tar Heel State. The first such volume in more than two decades, Ready’s work offers a distinctive view of the state’s history built from myriad stories and episodes. Ready begins with a study of the state’s geography and then invites readers to revisit dramatic struggles of the American Revolution and Civil War, the early history of Cherokees, the impact of slavery as an institution, the rise of industrial mills, and the changes wrought by modern information-based technologies since 1970. Mixing spirited anecdotes and illustrative statistics, Ready describes the rich Native American culture found by John White in 1585, the chartered chaos of North Carolina’s proprietary settlement, and the chronic distrust of government that grew out of settlement patterns and the colony’s early political economy. He challenges the perception of relaxed intellectualism attributed to the "Rip van Winkle" state, the notion that slavery was a relatively benign institution in North Carolina, and the commonly accepted interpretation of Reconstruction in the state. Ready also discusses how the woman suffrage movement pushed North Carolina into a hesitant twentieth-century progressivism. In perhaps his most significant contribution to North Carolina’s historical record, Ready continues his narrative past the benchmark of World War II and into the twenty-first century. From the civil rights struggle to the building of research triangles, triads, and parks, Ready recounts the events that have fueled North Carolina’s accelerated development in recent years and the many challenges that have accompanied such rapid growth, especially those of population change and environmental degradation. The Tar Heel State is enhanced by one hundred and ninety illustrations and five maps.
"The Tar Heel State constitutes an eminently readable, fast-paced, and thorough survey of North Carolina’s past. The volume not only pays due attention to the enormous impact of geology and geography on the development of the colony and state but it also proves stunningly inclusive. The roles and contributions of women, African Americans (bonded and free), and Native Americans are discussed at length. Ready also appreciates and incorporates the tribulations and advances of the twentieth century-wars, depression, civil rights, demographic diversity, and economic improvements-as he brings North Carolina into the current era."
—professor of history, University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and author of Society in Colonial North Carolina
"In the first interpretive history of North Carolina in a generation, Milton Ready provides a skillful and well-written addition to the state’s historical literature. Drawing upon recent scholarship, Ready widens the scope of North Carolina’s past, and his chapters on the state’s changing social and economic landscape since the 1970s chart the profound transformation of North Carolina in the twenty-first century."
—deputy secretary, North Carolina State Office of Archives and History, and coeditor of Writing North Carolina History
"Ready has written one of the most inclusive histories of North Carolina to date. He grasps the phenomenon of the North Carolina experience and brings the life of marginalized groups out of the archives and into the public consciousness. The Tar Heel State is a scholarly and compelling story of the divergent experiences of the state’s masses-full of interesting facts and details that are often absent in other studies on the same subject."
—chair of the Department of History and Political Science, St. Augustine’s College, and author of No Peace without Freedom: Race and the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, 1915-1975
Lindley S. Butler
"In this engaging and provocative original history of North Carolina, Ready illuminates the experience of an unpretentious people shaped by a diverse and not altogether welcoming land and seascape. From the outset, individualistic men and women coped with internal conflict as they settled diffusely in farmsteads and small villages, establishing patterns that continue to prevail on the land, even as Tar Heels embrace urbanization and greater diversity today."
—coeditor of The North Carolina Experience: An Interpretive and Documentary History
Olen Cole Jr.
"Informative and well-crafted, Ready’s comprehensive one-volume history of North Carolina deserves a place on the shelf of every North Carolina library and home. It is essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the history of North Carolina and will be of immense benefit to those interested in the roles African Americans have played throughout the history of the state."
—chair of the Department of History, North Carolina A&T State University