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The events of the past, writes noted historian William E. Leuchtenburg, come alive when we encounter them "on the ground." Pickett's charge and Joshua Chamberlain's defense of Little Round Top, for instance, take on a tangible immediacy when we walk through the fields of Gettysburg, just as the Allied landings at Omaha Beach look that much more astonishing when we see for ourselves the daunting landscape of Normandy. More than that, the places to which a society attaches itself--cemeteries, monuments, museums, and stadiums, to name just a few--reveal much about that society, and it is for that reason that ever more historians are turning to the study of place as a vehicle into the past.
In this volume, Leuchtenburg and more than two dozen of his colleagues consider American places, ranging from iconographic centers, such as Boston Common and Graceland, to lesser-known venues like Barre, Vermont, and Woodside, California. Leuchtenburg himself writes of his hometown of Queens, where history is busily writing itself today as immigrant groups forge a multi-ethnic community much different from the days of yore. The opening essay even addresses the place that is no place--namely, cyberspace--but that is also distinctly American, a frontier whose boundaries are unknown. Readers with an interest in history and cultural geography alike will find much of value in these pages. --Gregory McNamee [via]