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Wisconsin / Geography / History


Wisconsin Land and Life
A Portrait of the State
Edited by Robert C. Ostergren and Thomas R. Vale

A North Coast Book

A geographic exploration of Wisconsin

Rolling green hills dotted with Holstein cows, red barns, and blue silos. The Great Lakes ports at Superior, Ashland, and Kenosha. A Polish wedding dance or a German biergarten in Milwaukee. The dappled quiet of the Chequamagon forest. A weatherbeaten but tidy town hall at the intersection of two county trunk highways. Ojibwa families gathering wild rice into canoes. The boat ride through the Dells. The upland ridges of the Driftless Area, falling away into hidden valleys....

These are images of Wisconsinís land and life, images that evoke a strong sense of place. This book, Wisconsin Land and Life, is an exploration of place, a series of original essays by Wisconsin geographers that offers an introduction to the stateís natural environment, the historical processes of its human habitation, and the ways that nature and people interact to create distinct regional landscapes. To read it is to come away with a sweeping view of Wisconsinís geography and history: the glaciers that carved lakes and moraines; the soils and climate that fostered the prairies and great northern pine forests; the early Native Americans who began to shape the landscape and who established forest trails and river portages; the successive waves of Europeans who came to trade in furs, mine for lead and iron, cut the white pines, establish farms, work in the lumber and paper mills, and transform spent wheatfields into pasture for dairy cattle.

Readers will learn, too, about the platting and naming of Wisconsinís towns, the establishment of county and township governments, the growth of urban neighborhoods and parishes, the role of rivers, railroads, and religion in shaping the state's growth, and the controversial reforestation of the cutover lands that eventually transformed hardscrabble farms and swamps into a sportsmanís paradise.

Abundantly illustrated with photos and maps, this book will richly reward anyone who wishes to learn more about the land and life of the place we know as Wisconsin.

Robert C. Ostergren, professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is the author of A Community Transplanted and coauthor of the Cultural Map of Wisconsin, both published by the University of Wisconsin Press. Thomas R. Vale, professor of geography at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, is the author of U.S. 40 Today, published by the University of Wisconsin Press, and of Western Images, Western Landscapes.

Media & bookseller inquiries regarding review copies, events, and interviews can be directed to the publicity department at or (608) 263-0734. (If you want to examine a book for possible course use, please see our Course Books page. If you want to examine a book for possible rights licensing, please see Rights & Permissions.)

Brown and tan cover features the black and white photograph "Canoeist at Steamboat Rock"

June 1997
LC: 96-036447 F
626 pp.    6 x 9    68 b/w photos   47 maps

The cloth edition, ISBN 978-0-299-15350-2, is out of print, but the paperback is still available.

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