The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky

By Appleton, Thomas H., Jr. | The Journal of Southern History, May 2011 | Go to article overview

The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky


Appleton, Thomas H., Jr., The Journal of Southern History


The Encyclopedia of Northern Kentucky. Edited by Paul A. Tenkotte and James C. Claypool. A Project of the Thomas D. Clark Foundation, Inc. (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, c. 2009. Pp. xxii, 1047. $49.95, ISBN 978-0-8131-2565-7.)

The late Thomas D. Clark would have been immensely proud of this volume. Those of us privileged to have been his students, colleagues, and friends vividly recall his insistence that state and local history constituted the bedrock on which national history must be founded. In the final years of his long and productive life, he spearheaded the drive that culminated in the publication of the widely praised The Kentucky Encyclopedia and The Encyclopedia of Louisville, both edited by John E. Kleber and published by the University Press of Kentucky in 1992 and 2001, respectively. Before Clark's death at age 101 in 2005, he lent his enthusiastic support to a third volume devoted to northern Kentucky that would link that region to "the history of the Commonwealth of Kentucky and ... the nation" (p. xix).

Coeditors Paul A. Tenkotte and James C. Claypool of Northern Kentucky University assembled a team of more than three hundred authors to prepare some 2,100 entries that examine the economic, political, social, cultural, and religious history of northern Kentucky. Mindful that geographical designations are often controversial as well as nebulous, the compilers considered "historical ties, past and present transportation links, and current commuting patterns" in determining the counties that make up northern Kentucky: Boone, Bracken, Campbell, Carroll, Gallatin, Grant, Kenton, Mason, Owen, Pendleton, and Robertson (p. xxi). Currently home to some 450,000 residents, this "heavily urbanized area and its surrounding suburbs and rural towns" enjoy "a common history, bound together by links of transportation, commerce, and social patterns" (p. xvii).

In a brief but masterful introduction, Tenkotte and Campbell grapple with some of the perplexing questions about the region, not the least of which concerns self-identity. Is northern Kentucky indeed northern? Southern? A hybrid? Northern Kentucky, the editors point out, is often referred to as a "gateway" (p. xvii), but to what? …

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