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Studies and Records
Volume VI

Published by the Norwegian-American Historical Association, Northfield, Minnesota
Copyright 1931 by the Norwegian-American Historical Association

Preface

"National self-examination," writes Professor Boynton in The Rediscovery of the Frontier, "is more than keeping pace with national complaceney." Among the several forms that the process takes is fiction, and in such novels as The Story of a Country Town, Main Travelled Roads, Country People, O Pioneers, and Giants in the Earth, self-examination has been carried far into the essential meanings of the national life. The search for reality takes another form in that truth-seeking history which goes to the contemporary records and sets forth the results of its research in studies and documents that contribute to one's understanding of significant forces in the making of America.

Both of history and of fiction the modern temper has demanded enlightenment concerning the realities underlying and accompanying human transition and adjustment. One response to this demand has been the cultivation by historians of the field of American immigration. This involves search for fundamental documents, research in the domain of social and economic history, and an interest in the story of the commoner, with all its significant ramifications. The present volume, which centers about one element in American life, represents within modest limits something of the scope and spirit of the new immigration research; and it offers opportunities to test the interpretations that have been set forth by those novelists who have written of the immigrant pioneer.

Drawing upon the Selkirk Papers and other sources, Professor Knaplund has been able to reconstruct the story of a band of Norwegians who pioneered in the Canadian Northwest. Mr. Qualey employs the documentary method in portraying the activities of a frontier church statesman. Miss Bøe traces in detail the story of a modern Viking who sought his destiny in mid-America. Abraham Jacobson's narrative of a journey to Dakota in 1861 is an original document that will interest readers of Giants in the Earth. Dr. Gates makes an important contribution in his study, based largely on materials in the archives of the Illinois Central Railroad, of an organized railroad campaign for Scandinavian settlers. Professor Haugen has added a new chapter to the history of the West in his entertaining account, drawn in part from oral sources, of the Norwegians who worked at the Missouri Indian forts in the seventies, contemporaries and neighbors of Per Hansa, hewers of wood and drawers of water.

Professor Larson's account of an Iowa convention riot is a case document in racial antagonism on the frontier, with tolerance and insight by a trained scholar. The international character of immigration research is emphasized in the study presented by a young Norwegian scholar of Bjørnstjerne Bjørnson's "reaction to emigration." Mr. Barton analyzes the work of two Norwegian-American novelists, one of them a disciple of William James. The volume is brought to a close by Dr. Gjerset's description of the great museum depicting Norwegian-American life and culture that has been built up at Decorah, Iowa; by Professor Hovde's review of recent publication of the association; and by Mr. Hodnefield's admirable and useful bibliographical survey, the second in its series.

Theodore C. Blegen
Minnesota Historical Society
St. Paul, Minnesota

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