The Great West. Middle America. Flyover Country. The expanse of plains, lakes, forests, and farms, between the Appalachian and Rocky Mountains has carried many names. Beginning in the twentieth century, Americans began calling it The Heartland, a term that Dr. Kristin L. Hoganson
argues carried a specific meaning that has changed across time. In The Heartland: An American History
(Penguin, 2019), Hoganson tracks the global history of Champaign, Illinois – a small place with a large history, and, as a professor of history at the University of Illinois, Hoganson’s home for nearly two decades. The Heartland
makes a strong case for the Midwest not as a provincial, isolated, region but rather as a place defined by global connections, diasporas, and a wide array of cultures. The book covers a lot of ground, from Kickapoo history to the story of high-bred cattle to a foray into the history of long-distance ballooning. Throughout, Hoganson maintains that just as scholars study the West and the South, the Heartland is deserving of its own status as part of the American regional canon, not because it looks inward, but because of its long history of affecting historical change and being affected by global events.
Stephen Hausmann is a doctoral candidate at Temple University and Visiting Instructor of history at the University of Pittsburgh. He is currently writing his dissertation, a history of race and the environment in the Black Hills and surrounding northern plains region of South Dakota, Wyoming, and Montana.