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In 1978 historian Joseph Wall wrote that Iowa was still seeking to assert its own identity. . . . It has no real center where the elite of either power, wealth, or culture may congregate. Iowa, in short, is middle America. In this collection of well-written and accessible essays, originally published in 1996, seventeen of the Hawkeye States most accomplished historians reflect upon the dramatic and not-so-dramatic shifts in the middle lands history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Marvin Bergman has drawn upon his years of editing the Annals of Iowa to gather contributors who cross disciplines, model the craft of writing a historical essay, cover more than one significant topic, and above all interpret history rather than recite it. In his preface to this new printing, he calls attention to publications that begin to fill the gaps noted in the 1996 edition.
Rather than survey the basic facts, the essayists engage readers in the actual making of Iowas history by trying to understand the meaning of its past. By providing comprehensive accounts of topics in Iowa history that embrace the broader historiographical issues in American history, such as the nature of Progressivism and Populism, the debate over whether womens expanded roles in wartime carried over to postwar periods, and the place of quantification in history, the essayists contribute substantially to debates at the national level at the same time that they interpret Iowas distinctive culture.