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Arkansas Travelers: Geographies of Exploration and Perception, 1804-1834 (Paperback)
Winner, 2020 J.G. Ragsdale Book Award from the Arkansas Historical Association
“I reckon stranger you have not been used much to traveling in the woods,” a hunter remarked to Henry Rowe Schoolcraft as he trekked through the Ozark backcountry in late 1818. The ensuing exchange is one of many compelling encounters between Arkansas travelers and settlers depicted in Arkansas Travelers: Geographies of Exploration and Perception, 1804–1834. This book is the first to integrate the stories of four travelers who explored Arkansas during the transformative period between the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and statehood in 1836: William Dunbar, Thomas Nuttall, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, and George William Featherstonhaugh.
In addition to gathering their tales of treacherous rivers, drunken scoundrels, and repulsive food, historian and geographer Andrew J. Milson explores the impact such travel narratives have had on geographical understandings of Arkansas places. Using the language in each traveler’s narrative, Milson suggests, and the book includes, new maps that trace these perceptions, illustrating not just the lands traversed, but the way travelers experienced and perceived place. By taking a geographical approach to the history of these spaces, Arkansas Travelers offers a deeper understanding—a deeper map—of Arkansas.
About the Author
Andrew J. Milson is professor of history and geography at the University of Texas at Arlington. His ancestors settled in Arkansas in the 1820s.
“[A] truly eye-opening volume, which lays aside the traditional travels of so long ago, and neatly places each excursion within two major themes—that of place and landscape. … Milson has given us a new way to examine these travels and the Arkansas Travelers themselves.”
—Maylon Rice, Fort Smith Historical Society Journal, September 2019
“Andrew J. Milson reconceptualizes the Mississippi River Valley and the American South of the early American republic in his new work on travelers and explorers. Using the methodology of historical geography, Milson enhances our understanding of the region and its landscapes—both physical and cultural. In particular, he looks at the expeditions and travels of George Hunter and William Dunbar, Thomas Nuttall, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft, and George William Featherstonhaugh. Arkansas Travelers: Geographies of Exploration and Perception, 1804–1834 covers the thirty years after the Louisiana Purchase and gives readers a new perspective on Arkansas’s transition from territory to statehood.”
—Joseph Key, Journal of Southern History, May 2021
“Anyone with an interest in the historical geography of territorial Arkansas will find this monograph indispensable. This work also is recommended for anyone curious about frontier travel and the life of American settlers west of the lower Mississippi River.”
—Steven L. Driever, Historical Geography, Volume 48, 2020
“Vividly written, Milson’s entertaining book will be a welcome read to anyone interested not only in Arkansas but also in the social, economic, and environmental history of the early nineteenth- century South.”
—Mikko Saikku, Journal of American History, June 2021
“Bringing together the stories of these four important early Arkansas travel accounts is enough to constitute a good book, but Andrew J. Milson’s perception maps help re-frame these stories — making us rethink the cultural and environmental commentaries that have so long occupied our attention. Arkansas Travelers is a welcomed addition to Arkansas history and to historical geography in general.”
—Brooks Blevins, author of Arkansas/Arkansaw: How Bear Hunters, Hillbillies, and Good Ol’ Boys Defined a State
“Andrew Milson’s well-written and carefully-documented study of four Arkansas travelers takes us back two centuries to a time when the region was being newly transformed from a Native land to a freshly-settled part of the Euro-American world. Milson’s lively narrative—informed by his keen geographer’s eye—reconstructs an Arkansas landscape rich in environmental diversity, cultural pluralism, and commercial possibility. A must-read for any enthusiast of the nineteenth-century frontier.”
—William Wyckoff, Montana State University
“That Andrew Milson is both an historian and a geographer is what makes Arkansas Travelers so special. Milson analyzes the journals of four explorers to tell the fascinating story of how two remarkably diverse European American and Indian peoples lived in early nineteenth-century Arkansas—the game they hunted; crops grown; their settlements and modes of transportation; skins, furs, and other products; and their many hardships. And through exceptionally clear maps, Milson shows the precise routes of the four explorers and the locations of the cultural, mineral, and botanical phenomena they discuss. This is basic research in historical geography at its best.”
—Richard L. Nostrand, author of The Making of America’s Culture Regions
“Milson’s perspective as a geographer is made clear from his subtitle to the final page, but readers from a wide range of disciplines will be grateful for the clearly stated organizational framework and lucid prose he brought to the task. Milson is also to be praised for the distance he keeps, making explicit his understanding that his travelers were to a man spectacularly biased observers. With this study, Milson has lifted the scholarly examination of Arkansas’s earliest documentary records to a new level of precision and analytic sophistication.”
—Robert Cochran, Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Spring 2020