Notes & Comments: Public History Partnerships through the Teaching American History Program

By: Gregory Wilson, University of Akron
Publication Director, Northeast Ohio Journal of History

Schools, colleges, universities, museums and other institutions across Northeast Ohio are building creative partnerships with one another through the federal government’s Teaching American History grant program. Begun in 2001 and funded through the Department of Education, each grant is for a three-year period. The goals of the national professional development program for elementary and secondary teachers are to improve the quality of American history instruction and generate student interest and performance in American history as a distinct subject within social studies. The Teaching American History grant program represents a major public history initiative across the country and Northeast Ohio has been well-represented within it, receiving 40 percent of the grants in Ohio. Since the program began, there have been 539 projects funded across the country. Of these, 20 have been in Ohio and the 8 projects in Northeast Ohio are highlighted below. Continue reading Notes & Comments: Public History Partnerships through the Teaching American History Program

Book Review: Ohio and the World

Ohio and the World, 1753-2053: Essays toward a New History of OhioEdited by Geoffrey Parker, Richard Sisson, and William Russ Coil. (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2005. xiii, 256 pp. Cloth, $49.95, ISBN 0-8142-0939-4. Paper, $22.95, ISBN 0-8142-5115-3.)

In an essay titled “Ohio States” from the book of the same name, Jeffrey Hammond noted that Ohio appeared average because it was, meaning that Ohio is an amalgam of U.S. society, notable for being the middle against which more radical, trendy or controversial events are measured.[1. Jeffrey Hammond, Ohio States: A Twentieth-Century Midwestern, Kent: Kent State University Press, 2002.] In his introduction to Ohio and the World, Andrew R.L. Cayton, author of several books on Ohio and frontier North America, takes exception to this characterization as incomplete. As he notes, Ohio possessed real leadership, since from “the mid-eighteenth through the mid-twentieth century, Ohio was at the forefront of most major developments in the Americas and Europe” (2).

Ohio and the World began as a series of lectures in honor of Ohio’s bicentennial. Now revised and edited, the essays by R. David Edmunds, James Oliver Horton, Eric Foner, Kathryn Kish Sklar, James T. Patterson, Herbert Asher, and William Kirwan seek to explain Ohio’s past and future as intimately involved with globalization. The larger purpose is to push Ohioans to once again make the state a destination point, an economic and socially progressive leader. Continue reading Book Review: Ohio and the World

Notes & Comments: Thinking About Regions

By: Gregory Wilson, University of Akron
Publication Director, Northeast Ohio Journal of History

The Northeast Ohio Journal of History bills itself as a regional enterprise. However, this masks the many complexities involved in defining a region. Of course, the concept of a region is a human creation, an effort to simplify discussions of disparate events, or to generalize about certain trends, issues, and events noticed in various local or state locations. Within the history of the United States, writers have made great and frequent use of regions: the West, the Great Lakes, Appalachia, the Northwest, the Great Plains, the South and so on. By its nature, defining a region means creating an entity that is unique in some fashion, different from other places around it according to some combination of cultural, economic, environmental, political, or social attributes. Regional boundaries are fluid, flexible, and porous and thus it is a matter of debate as to what is or is not part of a region. For example, the South usually refers to the 11 states that seceded in 1861; yet at times, historians have expanded this to include West Virginia, Kentucky, Maryland and Oklahoma. Including 11 makes the South a region defined politically by secession, but including 4 others means historians must go beyond political categories and search for other attributes that bind together people and places. In the case of the South, what makes the 4 others “southern”? The former presence of slavery? Accents and words in the language? Food and folkways?  Geographic features? Economic data? Again, there are multiple factors at work in defining places as regions. Continue reading Notes & Comments: Thinking About Regions

Book Review: Lake Erie Rehabilitated

Lake Erie Rehabilitated: Controlling Cultural Eutrophication, 1960s—1990s. By William McGucken. (Akron: University of Akron Press, 2000. xvi, 318 pp. Cloth, $49.95, ISBN 1-884836-57-7. Paper, $29.95, ISBN 1-884836-58-5.)

In this meticulous, yet often dry and ponderous work, historian William McGucken traces the efforts by the United States and Canada to control cultural eutrophication in Lake Erie. Cultural eutrophication is when “a lake’s nutrients are being excessively increased by some human activity – as, for example, the disposing of sewage in the lake” (2). The sign of this process in Lake Erie was algae growth that covered much of the surface, washed ashore, and whose decomposition led to depleted oxygen levels and the loss of desirable fish such as walleye and blue pike. Lake Erie was not the only lake undergoing this process in the years after WWII, but it was the most publicized one in North America. While McGucken considers the various “ecological, engineering, health, industrial, international, political, and scientific issues” (6) involved in this story, his concentration on the scientific is both the strength and the weakness of the book.

McGucken, who died in 2000, was chair of the history department at the University of Southern Indiana. He published three other books: Nineteenth-century Spectroscopy: Development of the Understanding of Spectra, 1802-1897 (1969), Scientists, Society, and State: The Social Relations of Science Movement in Great Britain, 1931-1947 (1984), and Biodegradable: Detergents and the Environment (1991). Lake Erie Rehabilitated is part of University of Akron Press’s series on technology and the environment (indeed, McGucken was one of the founding co-editors). Given the author’s background in the history of science, it fits that this work stresses the scientific over the political and social.

Although the focus of the book is Lake Erie, McGucken begins by examining the emergence of cultural eutrophication as an international problem to be corrected. Continue reading Book Review: Lake Erie Rehabilitated