Wednesday, March 5, 2008


What exactly is a hinterland?
Cronon uses the term "hinterland" many times in his book Nature's Metropolis:

"That I was unconscious of living in Chicago's hinterland is one important ending to the long story I have been telling in this book." (372)

"Some rural residents recognized immediately that their own transportation rates would ultimately bear the cost of this urban improvement: yet another metropolitan tax on the hinterland." (374)

"The cost of raising the city's railroad grades should not be added to Iowa's burdens. Such feelings of exploitation were a classic reflection of city-hinterland relations at the end of the nineteenth century." (374)

"The balloon-frame house where my mother was born in Princeton, Wisconsin, was made of white pine from the northern part of the state; my parents' ranch-style house in Madison, on the other hand, is framed with Douglas fir from the Pacific Northwest. My mother and I grew up in similar landscapes but different hinterlands." (376)

"As the center of wheat production moved north and west, toward Minnesota and Dakota Terriotory, Minneapolis became the gateway to a new wheat-raising hinterland." (376)

"As a result, Minneapolis quickly emerged as the largest flour-manufacturing center in the world...Chicago had lost another part of its hinterland." (377)

"And yet the story of each gateway city in American frontier history has always ended in similar ways as each encountered self-induced limits to growth. The market which the gateway provided for its hinterland reproduced itself in the hierarchy of central places that emerged beneath it." (377) gives the definition of hinterland as:
1.Often, hinterlands. the remote or less developed parts of a country; back country: The hinterlands are usually much more picturesque than the urban areas.
2.the land lying behind a coastal region. area or sphere of influence in the unoccupied interior claimed by the state possessing the coast. inland area supplying goods, esp. trade goods, to a port.

So does Cronon refer to hinterland as the more rural parts of the country? Even still, what geographical area does "Chicago's hinterland" consist of? And how does Chicago go about "losing" a part of its hinterland?


Laura Martin said...

Good question Penelope. Cronon most often uses "hinterland" in a sense that is closest to the 4th definition: "an inland area supplying goods, esp. trade goods, to a port." In using "hinterland," Cronon is refering to the surrounding rural areas that provide raw materials to Chicago. He argues that this geographical area shifts thoughout time; hence "loss of hinterland" refers to the phenonemon of the expanding West shifting to support new and expanding cities rather than Chicago. When I think about a "hinterland," I imagine a halo surrounding a city, encompassing all the areas where the residents/businesses retrieve their natural resources-- as transportation modes change (up to today's current globalized economy) this "halo" becomes less of a "halo" and more of a web (think of how a grocery market in NYC might get apples from New Zealand-- so New Zealand is the hinterlands for apple consumption in NYC)

Megan said...

I had also been wondering about the term and I agree that definition 4 makes the most sense for how he uses it. In addition to simply gaining or losing hinterland, doesn't he also say that the hinterland changes for different commodities? So if you were to examine the area where Chicago is connected with the logging industry it would be different than the area of Chicago's grain connections, etc. Does that have to do with 'hinterland' also?