Well written and interestingly organized social history of the Old Southwest from its settlement by Europeans until about 1830 when it had ceased to be a frontier and became the portal to Texas and the trans-Mississippi west.Davis argues that simple opportunism, not exploration or fleeing from society, motivated the men and women who populated what became Mississippi and Alabama."They were short-term people with long-range goals, and they revealed it in everything they did.They used the old Trace only so long as they had to, and allpowed it to die without a thought when something faster and better came along.In the main, roads to them were to be used only once and that was to get closer to the edge of the frontier, where the land was cheap or free." (p. 321)
Each chapter treats a different topic, viewed chronologically through the entire period: travel, law, commerce, crime, science, etc., and the index and notes help to piece together the stories of individuals whose life experiences are scattered through the book.This works better for more familiar characters like Andrew Jackson and William Dunbar than it does, for example, for Gideon Lincecum, who in many ways forms the centerpiece of the argument.
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