American Capitals: A Historical Geography

Hardcover | January 10, 2014

byChristian Montès

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State capitals are an indelible part of the American psyche, spatial representations of state power and national identity. Learning them by heart is a rite of passage in grade school, a pedagogical exercise that emphasizes the importance of committing place-names to memory. But geographers have yet to analyze state capitals in any depth. In American Capitals, Christian Montès takes us on a well-researched journey across America—from Augusta to Sacramento, Albany to Baton Rouge—shedding light along the way on the historical circumstances that led to their appointment, their success or failure, and their evolution over time.
           
While all state capitals have a number of characteristics in common—as symbols of the state, as embodiments of political power and decision making, as public spaces with private interests—Montès does not interpret them through a single lens, in large part because of the differences in their spatial and historical evolutionary patterns. Some have remained small, while others have evolved into bustling metropolises, and Montès explores the dynamics of change and growth. All but eleven state capitals were established in the nineteenth century, thirty-five before 1861, but, rather astonishingly, only eight of the fifty states have maintained their original capitals. Despite their revered status as the most monumental and historical cities in America, capitals come from surprisingly humble beginnings, often plagued by instability, conflict, hostility, and corruption. Montès reminds us of the period in which they came about, “an era of pioneer and idealized territorial vision,” coupled with a still-evolving American citizenry and democracy.

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State capitals are an indelible part of the American psyche, spatial representations of state power and national identity. Learning them by heart is a rite of passage in grade school, a pedagogical exercise that emphasizes the importance of committing place-names to memory. But geographers have yet to analyze state capitals in any dept...

Christian Montès is professor of geography at the Université Lumière Lyon 2 and the author of L’Amérique du Nord: Les Etats-Unis and Les transports dans l’aménagement urbain à Lyon. He lives in Lyon, France.

other books by Christian Montès

Format:HardcoverDimensions:408 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.1 inPublished:January 10, 2014Publisher:University Of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022608048X

ISBN - 13:9780226080482

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Table of Contents

1                Capitals: A New Light on American Cities and Territorial Processes
2                Capitals as Places of Memory
3                Geographical Patterns in the Migration of Capitals
4                In Search of Explanatory Models
5                Capital Choice and the Balance of Power
6                Evolution of State Capitals to the 1950s: The “Purgatory Years”
7                State Capitals since the 1950s: The Renaissance of Forgotten Cities
8                Validating Models through a Chronological and Concrete Analysis: Three Case Studies
9                Losing Status: The Place of Former Capitals in Today’s America
10              State Capitals Today: Symbols of American Democracy
 
Acknowledgments
Appendix 1: Demographic and Historical Tables
Appendix 2: A Brief Chronology of Colonial, Territorial, and State Capitals
Notes
References
Index

Editorial Reviews

“In this intriguing and demanding book, Christian Montès relentlessly employs social-scientific analysis and model building to try to understand the character of American state capitals.”
 
“Careful and diligent readers will come away with a new and enhanced understanding of state capitals.”