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Book Review: South Carolina (On the Road Histories)

by Theodore Scott Mar 18, 2009

Being a history geek, I usually buy at least two books when traveling somewhere new.

I need a travel book for getting around and a history book to help me understand what I see. Your average backpacker book provides some historical and cultural explanation.

However, the balance of hostel details compared to location background information never sits right with me.

So I was excited to find the On the Road Histories book series, which takes the opposite approach, and I’ve just finished reading South Carolina, by Kenneth Townsend.

The bulk of South Carolina reads like a popular history book. That makes sense; the author is a professor of American History who lives in Myrtle Beach.

The book is written in chronological order and provides a good overview of the state’s history. It starts out with the Native Americans and leads us up through the present day.

There is little mentioned about recent decades. This makes the end feel abrupt. However, I think more people are interested in what happened during times such as the American Revolution and the Civil War.

Maybe I assume too much, but I know I don’t really care about the South Carolina of the 1980’s.

While proud of South Carolina’s history, the book doesn’t sugarcoat negative aspects.

For example, while recounting the life of native son Andrew Jackson, the author doesn’t hide Jackson’s part in causing the Trail of Tears, calling it “among the most deplorable actions perpetrated against Native Americans”.

What makes it a book for travelers are the highlighted sidebars that point to historical places to visit.

“Must-See Sites” are scattered throughout most of the chapters, along with modern and historical photographs, famous battles, festival descriptions, and celebrated South Carolinians.

I would still want to pick up a traveler’s guidebook (or rely on the web) for information about common tourist items – where to eat, where to sleep – but this book is a great way to get to know South Carolina, whether you are a visitor or a resident.

If a visit to South Carolina isn’t in your future, consider other books in the On the Road Histories series: Alaska, Mississippi, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Michigan, Texas, Minnesota, and Wisconsin.

Price: $15.60 | BUY

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