American CapitalsA Historical Geography

American CapitalsA Historical Geography

Christian Montès

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780226080482

Publisher: University of Chicago Press


This book will be the first to offer a comprehensive study of American State capitals. Drawing from a historical geography perspective, it gives an insight into the complex processes leading to the selection of state capitals as well as a first assessment of their subsequent evolution and of their integration to the broader processes of territorial and urban building. The book is divided in three sections. The first addresses state capitals as places of memory and studies the urban fabric as well as their symbolic value. The second section studies the capitals’ selection processes. Searching the most suitable location for a capital revealed the way citizens defined democracy (“the people” seldom had to choose directly), territory (through the multifold concept of centrality), and their relationships with the urban world that was beginning to arise and dominate America. The third section tries to explain the developmental delay of most capitals even with the advent of the knowledge economy which should dwell upon their learned workforce and amenities. After the study of the fate of former capitals (for which heritage plays a large part), the book closes by looking at the real extent of changes in state capitals’ place in today’s United States.