Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History


David Meinig has published a four-volume series on the development of America. Meinig is a professor of geography at Maxwell School at Syracuse University in New York.

His four volumes consist of the geographical perspective that begins in 1492 and spans over 500 years.

Atlantic American (Vol. 1)

In this volume, Meinig focuses on the settling of North, South and Central America. He examines ethnic and religious groups, as well as, the geographic structure of the continents. The volume is not without details of history. Meinig states that geography and history cannot be studied without the other.

Meinig concludes this volume with the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth century. His vivid descriptions and easy to read prose encourages imagination and easily takes the reader to the time period in which he writes.

Continental America (Vol. 2)

In Volume 2, Meinig focuses on North American between the years 1800 and 1867. This is the time of Lewis and Clark and the opening of the west. Meinig explains how the Americans purged their country of British, French, Spaniards and Native Americans.

Meinig gives details of the migration of Americans to the interior of the United States from New England, the mid Atlantic states and the south. He states that the migration west is brought on by capitalism and imperialism. It is the geography of expansion, geography of secession and where the Civil War is concerned it is geopolitical.

Transcontinental America (Vol. 3)

Volume 3 covers the years 1850 to 1915. This volume follows the trail of the United States becoming a world power. As the westward expansion grows, the need for more rapid and “easier” travel is important. Meinig explains the importance of putting the railroad geographically in the right places, such as San Francisco, Chicago, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia in order to build the country economically.

Meinig takes the reader to the Spanish-American War in 1898. This “splendid little war” takes the United States out of its comfort zone and becomes a world power. This volume ends prior to the United States involvement in World War I.

Global America (Vol. 4)

Meinig’s final volume covers the United States from 1915 to 2000. Here he covers the social and geographic trends of the United States relating to the growth of urban migration, regionalism, metropolitanization, religious and ethnic change. On a more global scale, Meinig explains the change in relationship between the United States and Europe, Asia, and Latin America.

Donald Meinig put together a series of books like no other. His in depth research and knowledge on the subject makes this series a must for anyone who is interested in American history and its geography. All four volumes are full of illustrations that show the changes and the growth of the United States.