North Country: Essays on the Upper Midwest and Regional Identity

North Country: Essays on the Upper Midwest and Regional Identity

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Travel north from the upper Midwest’s metropolises, and before long you’re “Up North”—a region that’s hard to define but unmistakable to any resident or tourist. Crops give way to forests, mines (or their remains) mark the landscape, and lakes multiply, becoming ever clearer until you reach the vastness of the Great Lakes. How to characterize this region, as distinct from the agrarian Midwest, is the question North Country seeks to answer, as a congenial group of scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals explores the distinctive landscape, culture, and history that define the northern margins of the American Midwest.

From the glacial past to the present day, these essays range across the histories of the Dakota and Ojibwe people, colonial imperial rivalries and immigration, and conflicts between the economic imperatives of resource extraction and the stewardship of nature. The book also considers literary treatments of the area—and arguably makes its own contributions to that literature, as some of the authors search for the North Country through personal essays, while others highlight individuals who are identified with the area, like Sigurd Olson, John Barlow Martin, and Russell Kirk.

From the fur trade to tourism, fisheries to supper clubs, Finnish settlers to Native treaty rights, the nature of the North Country emerges here in all its variety and particularity: as clearly distinct from the greater Midwest as it is part of the American heartland.


From deep forests to Great Lakes, from Ojibwe to Finns, from the bones of a mastodon to the philosophy of Russel Kirk, the subjects of these engaging essays illuminate a subregion within the Midwest, one without the stereotypes of corn, soybeans, and factories. The particularities of the North Country offer fascinating evidence that place matters, that in the northern regions of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota are people, land, and cultures that open distinctive insights into the American experiment.—James H. Madison, author of The Indiana Way: A State History
"The Midwest is more than one geography, one livelihood, or one or two crops. 
North Country defines and explains this important sub-region of the Midwest, emphasizes place and culture as crucial elements of human existence, and provides a range of ways to think about both."—Paula M. Nelson, Professor Emeritus, Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Platteville
“The thesis of 
North Country: Essays on the Upper Midwest and Regional Identity is that the Upper Midwest of the United States constitutes a distinctive region that, while difficult to define, is unmistakable and can be approached from a number of angles. North Country is an admirable attempt to present just such a diverse examination of this elusive and at times mystifying regional identity. North Country is a worthwhile contribution to the study of the Upper Midwest and, more broadly, to the theorizing of American regional identity. By bringing together a diverse selection of essays from quite different perspectives, the editors provide insights into the nature of this elusive regional identity and, at the same time, suggest avenues for further research. The volume is not only well researched and closely focused on the matter at hand, but it is also generally quite readable and accessible to nonspecialists.”—World Literature Today

About the Author

Jon K. Lauck is the past president of the Midwestern History Association, teaches history and political science at the University of South Dakota, and is Editor-in-Chief of Middle West Review. He has authored or edited several books, including The Lost Region: Toward a Revival of Midwestern History; Daschle vs. ThuneFinding a New Midwestern History; and three volumes of The Plains Political Tradition.

Gleaves Whitney is Executive Director of the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation and the author or editor of 17 books on presidential and midwestern history.

Product details

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ OU Press (May 4, 2023)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 248 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 0806191899
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-0806191898
  • Item Weight ‏ : ‎ 13.1 ounces
  • Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 6 x 0.62 x 9 inches

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