Crossroads of the continent, Land of Lincoln, hub of commerce - or, as Charles Dickens viewed it, a landscape "oppressive in its barren monotony" - "Illinois" boasts a rich and varied past. In this far-reaching but compact history, Roger Biles provides a much needed, up-to-date account of the state's development, from the earliest native settlements to the present. Focusing on the state's changing population over time, he highlights the key figures who contributed to Illinois's government, economy, and culture. While devoting attention to the touchstones of the state's history, "Illinois" highlights also the achievements of ordinary people, including the women, the African Americans, and the other minorities who - along with the politicians, the captains of industry, and the military heroes - contributed to the state's growth and prosperity. National events shaped the state as well, and Biles discusses the impact of crises such as the Civil War and World War II on the people of Illinois. No history of "Illinois" can ignore the giant shadow that the metropolis on Lake Michigan casts across the state.
Relying on his extensive research on Chicago, Biles illuminates the role that city played in the state's development. He addresses such topics as the city's outbursts of labor unrest and racial tension, it's artistic renaissance, the growth of the Hispanic population, and suburban sprawl. At the same time, he relates Chicago's past to the larger story of "Illinois" and it's people. Written in an accessible style and including numerous illustrations, "Illinois" will appeal to students of history and general readers alike.