Book Review: Contested Boundaries: A New Pacific Northwest History

  • By Mary T. Henry
  • Posted 12/19/2017
  • Essay 20499

By David J. Jepsen and David J. Norberg
John Wiley & Sons, 2017
Paperback, 416 pages
Photographs, notes, bibliography, index
ISBN 978-1-119-06554-8

Two history teachers, David Jepsen of Tacoma Community College and David Norberg of Green River Community College, have produced a refreshing interpretation of Pacific Northwest history from 1792 through the present. Their focus is on the social, political, and cultural history of the region and in particular on people contesting boundaries set down by others, whether through discriminatory practices or restrictions on freedom.

In textbook format, the volume includes very readable essays that provide a sort of balance to the region's standardized history as, for example, when the authors investigate the narrow memory of the Hudson Bay Company, question terminology such as "pioneers" or "settlers," or address the demythification of Sacajawea.

Significantly Native Americans and other racial minorities, as well as women and the LGBTQ community, are given substantial treatment and the many barriers they encountered are discussed in detail. There are lengthy chapters about the labor movement, including the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), known as "Wobblies," as well as the movement for economic equality by the Chicano community.

Interspersed throughout the narrative are first-person accounts and brief biographies of personalities both well-known and obscure. Numerous photographs from museums, historical societies, and religious archives illuminate the text, many of them from the Washington State Historical Society.

At the end of each essay the authors present ways to explore more about the topic covered. They include listings of books, websites, and museums to visit. Questions to stimulate thought and discussion follow, as well as pages of notes identifying sources used.

Although the book is in textbook format for students, it offers a wonderfully panoramic view of the history of the region for the average reader and it represents the passion of two teachers to present a new and interesting view of that history.

By Mary T. Henry, December 19, 2017

Submitted: 12/19/2017

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