A Study of Rural Landscape and Society

By Jack Temple Kirby

320 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 41 illus., 9 maps, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-4527-1
    Published: August 1995
  • eBook ISBN: 978-1-4696-2386-3
    Published: December 2014

Studies in Rural Culture

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Jack Temple Kirby charts the history of the low country between the James River in Virginia and Albemarle Sound in North Carolina. The Algonquian word for this country, which means 'swamp-on-a-hill,' was transliterated as 'poquosin' by seventeenth-century English settlers. Interweaving social, political, economic, and military history with the story of the landscape, Kirby shows how Native American, African, and European peoples have adapted to and modified this Tidewater area in the nearly four hundred years since the arrival of Europeans. Kirby argues that European settlement created a lasting division of the region into two distinct zones often in conflict with each other: the cosmopolitan coastal area, open to markets, wealth, and power because of its proximity to navigable rivers and sounds, and a more isolated hinterland, whose people and their way of life were gradually--and grudgingly--subjugated by railroads, canals, and war. Kirby's wide-ranging analysis of the evolving interaction between humans and the landscape offers a unique perspective on familiar historical subjects, including slavery, Nat Turner's rebellion, the Civil War, agricultural modernization, and urbanization.

About the Author

Jack Temple Kirby is W. E. Smith Professor of History at Miami University and editor of the series Studies in Rural Culture. His books include Media-Made Dixie: The South in the American Imagination and Rural Worlds Lost: The American South, 1920-1960.
For more information about Jack Temple Kirby, visit the Author Page.


"A thoroughly referenced, entertaining, and thought-provoking work."--Choice

"A charming book that fuses scholarship to art."--Journal of Southern History

"Intriguing and highly readable. . . . Will be welcomed by all who seek to understand the way life was and is in this unique part of the American South."--American Historical Review

"Jack Kirby has written a beautiful, enjoyable, and valuable study about a little-known part of America. In so doing, he vividly illustrates the powerful but often overlooked connections among land, topography, and water in the shaping of human society. This is a fine work and highly recommended to all with any interest in environmental history."--Journal of American History

"This is ecological history with verve. . . . A human geography of a complex region."--Agricultural History

"An ambitious environmental history. . . . An important and valuable book for historians, both public and academic."--Public Historian