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The Best Poor Man's Country: Early Southeastern Pennsylvania [Paperback]

James T. Lemon

Price: CDN$ 29.32 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Sept. 25 2002
In many respects early Pennsylvania was the prototype of North American development. Its conservative defense of liberal individualism, its population of mixed national and religious origins, its dispersed farms, county seats, and farm-service villages, and its mixed crop and livestock agriculture served as models for much of the rural Middle West. To many western Europeans in the eighteenth century, life in early Pennsylvania offered a veritable paradise and refuge from oppression. Some called it "the best poor man's country in the world." The role of cultural backgrounds is important in this study of the development of early southeastern Pennsylvania, and as important is the interplay of people with the land. Lemon discusses the settlement of the land by western Europeans; the geographical and social mobility of the people; territorial organizations of farmlands, towns, and counties; and regional variations in land use, especially farming practices. Providing deeper access into the processes of social change, The Best Poor Man's Country remains a significant addition to the literature on colonial American historiography.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press (Sept. 25 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801868912
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801868917
  • Product Dimensions: 22.9 x 15.2 x 1.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 431 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #2,907,346 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


This book deserves careful attention... Lemon is a professional geographer, but historians will read his book as an imaginative approach to social history. The Best Poor Man's Country is a distinguished and important book. American Historical Review

About the Author

James T. Lemon is a professor emeritus of geography at the University of Toronto.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Since The Best Poor Man's Country was published three decades ago, many studies have appeared on early Pennsylvania. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Amazon.com: 3.7 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars thorough, academic, still worthwhile Jan. 11 2008
By Paul A. Kelley - Published on Amazon.com
For those willing to put in some effort, Lemon's book is a very good study that is not at all poorly written and reaches out beyond an audience of academic scholars even while staying within a somewhat restrictive structure. His thesis is exactly what the title indicates: that the settlement and economic development which occurred in colonial southeastern Pennsylvania was the result of the richness of the land, the abundance of social opportunity, and resulting momentum generated by this fortunate "geography," a term that encompasses, as the subject of geography does, a whole host of physical, cultural, and social characteristics that interact with other over time to create a unique landscape in a particular place - in this case, colonial southeastern Pennsylvania.

This book is a geographic study, and the language of academic geography is not readily accessible to most Americans, who have no background in true geographic thought, even those with an adequate understanding of and interest in popular geography. For example, Lemon's lengthy academic exercise, wherein he assesses how well settlement patterns and land uses approximate von Thunen's agricultural land use model is a bit of a slog - good academic prose, but a bit arcane of a subject even for today's academic geographers or college students.

Certainly, reading The Best Poor Man's Country is not like reading a book by John McPhee, nor was it meant to be. Lemon does not set out to weave a good yarn, where curiosity-driven diversions are neatly tied together as a piece of creative non-fiction. Instead, he follows a very careful and thorough, albeit somewhat dry, scientific tradition; he wrestles with a lot of data for the purpose of making a convincing and interesting argument, and then makes it again from other angles in subsequent chapters, and perhaps develops it a little deeper, too. He demonstrates that geographic ideas and theories and a lot of historical documents can be used to reconstruct and explain how and why early southeastern Pennsylvania developed in the way that it did. This secondary purpose, common in academic studies, can obfuscate the plainer story summed up in the words of the title.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Great Idea, not convincingly written... Feb. 20 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
The author took a wonderful idea (Geography as a factor in growth) and extensive research, and combined them into a book that would have done better as individual articles. The data was extensive, but the structure of the book did not make for a comprehensive read, and left me (as a reader) without a clean understanding of the authors point. A wonderful idea, but a bit hard to trudge through.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book June 13 2013
By Suzanne Burt - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
If you are doing research on early inhabitants of PA this is a great place to start. I'm doing a research paper on the influence of the Scots-Irish in York County, PA and this book had a LOT of helpful information on everything from politics, farming practices to church divisions and land use. Obviously this isn't a sit back at the beach and read for fun book, but if you are looking for historical data on Southeastern PA this is a great place to start!

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