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Studies in Midwestern History

Document Type

Article

Abstract

Efforts to identify the essential identity or the defining features of the Midwest are interesting and valuable, but they are ultimately doomed to failure because the Midwest is many different things. It is necessarily complex, conflicted, and contradictory, in much the same way that America as a whole was depicted by historian Michael Kammen in The Contrapuntal Civilization. Citing examples from his 2014 book, Small-Town Dreams: Stories of Midwestern Boys Who Shaped America, John Miller describes the powerful impulses that led young men to leave their midwestern farms and hometowns to pursue their destinies in distant places, while at the same time many of them clung to fond memories of childhoods spent fishing, playing ball, and roaming the countryside. Movement and stasis, ambition and contentment, change and continuity, dynamism and stability—these were some of the tensions that constituted the centrifugal and centripetal forces that operated in many midwestern lives.

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