In this revision of the 1991 anthology, eight historians set about explaining why the Inland Empire is different. For example, Donald W. Meinig, a native son of Palouse, Wash., takes up the question of regional identity. The Inland Empire is a place of open, rolling hills as well as forested mountains, he writes. One produced bountiful yields of wheat, the other, plentiful timber. The timber helped build the city of Spokane, the region's urban center, from which the whistling trains came and went.
The six original essays are essentially unchanged, because the revision by WSU Press focuses on filling gaps in women's history and contemporary history by adding two new chapters. One newcomer is an essay on the controversial Abigail Scott Duniway, one of those unstoppable, iron-spined Victorian overachievers who makes 21st-century females look like so many gossamer-winged sprites. Frontierswoman, newspaper editor and women's rights advocate, she fought for women's suffrage for decades, and delighted in the victory in Washington territory in 1883 -- only to see the vote snatched away again four years later. Not until 1910 did Duniway see her passionate struggle rewarded.
EWU historian Bill Youngs adds the story of how Spokane became the smallest city ever to host a world's fair when King Cole and city leaders threw Expo '74 -- the cotillion at which the Lilac City made its unexpected debut, reclaiming the Spokane River from the industrial pollution and clutter of the railroads in the bargain. Young calls this "the principal goal and accomplishment of the fair" and argues that Expo was Spokane's finest moment.
At a smidge over 200 generously illustrated pages, these essays are a kind of Whitman's Sampler of Inland Northwest history. More of a textbook than a light read for those looking for the "story" in history, it will again be the text of choice for regional history courses at area colleges and universities, and a concise introduction to the region for newcomers. Serious local-history buffs will also want it for their collections.