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Book: "Iowa: The Middle Land" Dorothy Schwieder

Updated: Mar 30, 2021

Dorothy Schwieder's 1996 work "Iowa: The Middle Land" endures into the 21st century as an important account of the history of the Hawkeye State. Schwieder looms large in the lexicon of historians concerned with the Iowa's past. Entering the Iowa State faculty in 1966 as the first woman hired in the department, where she made her mark through exploring a wide-range of topics related to Iowa history over a long and illustrious career.

"Iowa: The Middle Land" explored the first 150 years of Iowa, while also including initial chapters on the state's Indigenous past. Subtopics of Schwieder's broader research shined when paired with her beautiful writing style. The chronologically-ordered text provided an essential account of Iowa's past accessible to broad audiences. The way Schwieder weaves in the accounts of regular people stand as a particularly strong component of the work. The author excelled at balancing superbly researched insights while maintaining a focus on Iowans and their shared experiences. Schwieder also brought an inclusivity to her work that amplified the presence of minority communities and women within Iowa's past.

As a broad study, the book manages to balance necessary depth with a quickly-moving narrative. Due to the scope and scale of the work, some areas are better explored by readers through other sources that offer greater depth of specific topics. A notable example includes the focus on my own recent research, Inkpaduta's 1857 attack on Spirit Lake. Due to the author's focus, the event becomes simplified in a way that undercuts Indigenous autonomy and sovereignty while emphasizing traditional and stereotypical narratives surrounding the event. The shortcoming relates not to Schwieder's narrative, but instead to the difficulty of broad historical writing.

Clocking in at 381 pages, "Iowa: The Middle Land" endures as an important entry into the historiography of Iowa's past. I would recommend this book to anyone seeking to gain a better initial familiarization with Iowa History in a relatively quick and enjoyable read.

and contextualize this book in way that provides insight to readers and allows for further interaction and understanding.


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