Title Reviewed:
An Illinois Reader

Author Reviewed:
Clyde C. Walton

Martin Ridge


Indiana Magazine of History, Volume 67, Issue 2, pp 178-179

Article Type:
Book Review

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An Illinois Reader. Edited by Clyde C. Walton. (DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 1970. Pp. xvii, 468. Illustration, maps, notes, index. $7.50.)

Clyde C. Walton, former executive director of the Illinois State Historical Society, has compiled twenty-five essays for this sesquicentennial volume on the history of his native state. The articles were taken exclusively from the periodical publications of the society and their impact is impressive. If anyone has forgotten the names of the distinguished scholars who were interested in the history of Illinois, the table of contents will serve as an excellent reminder. James Alton James, Benjamin P. Thomas, Ray A. Billington, Paul W. Gates, David Donald, and Allan Nevins head the imposing list.

Walton has organized An Illinois Reader along chronological lines. Five sections, each roughly eighty pages in length, treat sequentially with five periods: the prestatehood, the frontier state, the Lincoln, the emerging industrial, and the recent. This chronological balance is sound, and the mix of essays–social, political, biographical, and economic–within each section is excellent. Walton has identified each author and provided an ample and interesting introduction for each of the periods. He has also included some useful maps.

Walton selected essays that he liked and that he thought would be of interest to adult readers. He was successful. This reviewer discovered the essays to be as fresh in the rereading as they were when he read them for the first time. These essays have style and pungency. Here is Allan Nevins telling about Lincoln and Lorado Taft; Ray A. Billington describing "starry-eyed speculators"; David Donald noting that "few Negroes have written books about their great emancipator" (p. 255); Harvey Wish explaining John P. Altgeld's pardon of the Chicago anarchists; and Walter Trohan recounting his life with the owner and publisher of the ChicagoTribune, Colonel Robert R. McCormick. But each essay offers its reader fascinating fare, and anyone interested in the history of Illinois and the Middle West will find this book a worthwhile addition to his library.

Indiana University, Bloomington Martin Ridge

Published by the Indiana University Department of History.