A Documentary History of Arkansas

A Documentary History of Arkansas, ed. by C. Fred Wiliams et al. 2nd ed.

In this era of online resources, justifying a new print reference work, especially an anthology of primary and secondary documents, can be a challenge. However, the second edition of A Documentary History of Arkansas (1st ed., 1984) more than rises to the challenge, based on the breadth and scope of its coverage of Arkansas–from the Hernando de Soto expedition to present concerns over fracking in the Fayetteville Shale. Here are collected a variety of sources, including official government reports, newspaper articles by and about Arkansans, letters documenting social life on the frontier, slave narratives, statutes, diary selections, and even a proposed list of mail routes and a table illustrating the state’s prison population. Very few of these can be found online. The editors perform admirably

in updating this book from the earlier edition, and in giving good representation to women, labor unions, African Americans, and Native Americans; unfortunately, Arkansas’s “new” immigrants, especially Latinos, are not represented. Documents are arranged chronologically, with each chapter introduced by an essay outlining the highlights of the period in question. Each document is prefaced by a blurb briefly explaining its significance. Even seasoned historians will learn something new by sifting through this remarkable volume.

G. A. Lancaster, independent scholar

 Summing Up: Highly recommended. Lower-division undergraduates and above.



Pinson Mounds


Pinson Mounds: Middle Woodland Ceremonialism in the Midsouth, by Robert C. Mainfort with Mary L. Kwas et al.

Mainfort’s book is a long-awaited compilation of information on one of the more important archaeological sites in the southeastern US. Pinson Mounds is located in western Tennessee, about 15 kilometers south of Jackson. The site has been known for two centuries, but it was only in the 1970s that the first extensive fieldwork was conducted. This is surprising, given the size of the site and its prominent features: 13 earthen mounds scattered across some 160 hectares, and a large geometric earthen embankment almost encircling one of the mounds. The largest mound stands 22 meters high and is about 100 meters in diameter. The majority of the mounds probably were constructed during the Middle Woodland period, or circa 100-400 CE. The book is extremely well illustrated, with numerous photographs of the earthen works, excavations, and artifacts, plus excellent renderings of maps of the site that were made during the 19th and 20th centuries. Mainfort (Univ. of Arkansas) and his coauthors avoid jargon wherever possible, which makes the chapters accessible to nonprofessionals interested in the prehistory of the Southeast. An excellent overview not only of Pinson Mounds, but also of the lower Mississippi Valley during the Middle Woodland period.

M. J. O’Brien, University of Missouri–Columbia

 Summing Up: Essential. All levels/libraries.