The Great Columbia Plain

A Historical Geography, 1805-1910

Donald W. Meinig

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  • hardcover not available
  • Published: 1995
  • Subject Listing: History / Environmental History; Environmental Studies
  • Bibliographic information: 598 pp.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Series: Emil and Kathleen Sick Book Series in Western History and Biography
  • Contents

Dismissed in early years as a wasteland, the rolling open country that covers the interior parts of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho is today one of the richest farmlands in the nation. This work is the story of its transformation. Meinig traces all of the aspects of its development by combining geographic description with historical narrative.

"By offering so richly textured a description of the region he knows and loves so well, Meinig reminds us how the meaning of a place can only be understood in time. The deeper lesson of this book is that history and geography yield some of their greatest insights when they make common cause and work together. To understand a place, we must know its history; to understand history, we must know the place in which it has occurred. ."
-William Cronon, From the Foreword
Foreword: Ghost Region
A Retrospective Preface
Preface to the Original Edition
Setting: Landscapes, Seasons, and People, ca. 1800
Entry: By East and By North
Competition: By Land and by Sea
Monopoly: London Rules the Columbia
Matrix: American Visions and Ventures
Missions: Protestants and Priests
Preparation: Clearing, Organizing, and Evaluating the Land
Colonization: Gold, Grass, and Grain
Strategy: Settlers and Railroads, 1870-90
Conquest: Some Pattersn, Methods and Ideas, 1870-90
Empire: Town and Country, ca. 1890
Elaboration: Some Patterns and methods
Inquiry: The Farmer and the Scientist, ca. 1890-1910
Culmination: The Great Columbia Plain, ca. 1910
Appendix: Populations and Facilities of Tows, 1890 and 1910 (Table 2)

"A finely drawn and richly documented geography."
-Pacific Historical Review

"This is a regional historical geography of exceptional quality. Regional studies, Carl Sauer once remarked in a seminar, involve judgement and perspective, insight and talent, and therefore should be attempted only by the mature practitioner. Donald Meinig qualifies on all counts. His excellent book makes us painfully aware of how little really good and readable work has been done in this genre."
-Geographical Review

"This study proves that regional history can have significance as well as genuine vitality. . . . The work is imaginative in theme, well organized, and ambitious in scope."
-The Journal of American History

"From the Indians who roamed the desert and grasslands, to the farmers who came to raise cattle and wheat, Meinig has mapped and written the changing attitudes towards the area and the changing economic patterns. . . . This is an outstanding contribution to our knowledge of history, geography, and economics."
-Pacific Historian

"Meinig's approach emphasizes not dramatic personalities or events but the lay of the land, the sweep of seasons, and certain early perceptions of the area that influenced its development."
-Pacific Northwest Quarterly