Ramp Hollow - Steven Stoll

Staff Pick

Stoll’s outstanding history of Appalachia relates a true tragedy of the commons, but not as that term is generally understood. Used by generations of households throughout the region before land became “real estate,” forests, fields, and waterways provided a ready supplement to earnings, helping people live a subsistence existence. Hunting, fishing, and foraging weren’t the free-for-all of competing self-interests; rather, people took no more than they needed, and were careful to leave the rest for later. Today, this might seem a model for a sustainable lifestyle. To Gilded Age capitalists, it seemed like a “failure” to monetize resources. Corporations stepped in to rectify this, introducing modern ideas of progress to a population they dismissed as “backward.”  As timber and mining interests dispossessed these smallholders of their land—in much the same way the state had robbed Native Americans of their ancestral lands—they also introduced them to debt, poverty, and starvation, conditions that this poor but self-sufficient population hadn’t known before. While Stoll’s thorough and very readable economic history delves back to England’s clearances and the roots of capitalism to explain Appalachia’s plight, the book is also an important cultural history, tracing the decline of the heroic American pioneer, as embodied by Daniel Boone, into the degenerate “hillbilly,” an “aspersion. … [that] coincided with the seizure of the environment.”

Ramp Hollow: The Ordeal of Appalachia Cover Image
$30.00
ISBN: 9780809095056
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Hill & Wang - November 21st, 2017

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