Book Review: Builders of Ohio

Builders of Ohio: A Biographical History. Edited by Warren Van Tine and Michael Pierce. (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2003. xi, 338 pp. Paper $24.95, ISBN: 0-8142-5121-8.)

If an instructor could use only two books to teach an undergraduate course in Ohio History, he or she and the students would be well served by using Builders of Ohio and George Knepper’s, Ohio And Its People. As the editors state in the introduction, “The twenty-four essays in this volume use biography to explore Ohio’s history. They are not intended to provide a narrative history. . . . Nonetheless, they do provide a historical overview of the state’s development. . . ” (vii). Thus each work serves to complement the other, one providing the full narrative history and the other providing the human dimension to that narrative.

Editors Van Tine and Pierce purposefully chose the biographical approach to Ohio history for three reasons: (1) The personal narrative of a biography brings the work of academic historians more easily to the attention of the interested public; (2) Biographies emphasize the connections between historical events and the contributions of individuals; and, (3) Biography as an historical method “offers the most promising synthesis of culture and history.”(viii). Through the biographical sketches of twenty-four individuals, Ohio’s settlement, development of political and economic institutions, contributions to social reform, and the slow and sometimes painful transformation from an industrial-based to a service-based economy are highlighted. Continue reading Book Review: Builders of Ohio