Some regions of the United States—particularly the south and the west—are the subject of focused scholarly attention. Many argue that these regions have distinct histories and characteristics that shape the life of those who live there as well as the history of our country. Should the Midwest also be treated as a region with important and distinctive characteristics that should not be ignored by scholars? A recent conference at the University of Kansas posed this question to a panel of experts on the Midwest, including myself as director of the University Press of Kansas. The conclusion is that the Midwest, defined generally as the area of the country beginning in Ohio and ending at the western boundary of Kansas, has particular regional characteristics drawn from the way it was settled, the nature of the economy, the natural environment, and the mix of small towns and major cities, among other factors, that have shaped the way people living in this area respond to important national issues. Whatever the outcome of this debate, Kansas, the Midwest, and the Plains is our home. We regard publishing on the history, society, economy, and environment of the Midwest to be an important part of the program at the University Press of Kansas. From books such as John Miller’s “Small Town Boys: Stories of Midwestern Boys who Shaped America”; Arnold Bauer’s “Time’s Shadow: Remembering the Family Farm in Kansas“; Iralee Barnard’s “Field Guide to the Common Grasses of Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska” to the forthcoming “God Hates: Westboro Baptist Church, American Nationalism, and the Religious Right” by Rebecca Barrett-Fox, the University Press of Kansas has published excellent work about the Midwest and its impact on American life. We continue to publish work not only about Kansas and the Midwest, but work from this region that is about America.
–Written by Chuck Myers, Director of University Press of Kansas