People of every place and time deserve a history. Only local and regional history satisfies the need to remember the most intimate matters, the things of childhood…
–Joseph Amato, Rethinking Home: The Case for Local History
These are the words today’s conversation partner, Joseph Amato. Dr. Amato is a Professor Emeritus of History at Southwest State University in Marshall, Minnesota. Called (I think rightly) “a maverick historian of the first order”, Amato in his decades there was a principal founder of the Society of Local and Regional History, and authored numerous books on his region and locality. But he also has written histories of suffering, dust, walking, and surfaces, and to this list he will soon add a history of everyday life. He is a historian with probably a deeper philosophical and literary sensibility than most other historians think is quite right–he has even knowingly committed poetry.
In the course of our conversation, we talk about how a nice boy from Detroit ever made it to southwest Minnesota, which even Minnesotans think of as far from everywhere else; why muskrats are more important than buffalo on the plains of southwest Minnesota; and what the “clandestine” is in local history. I also challenge him to explain why the local and regional matter in an era in which professional historians seem unable to come up with a reason to care about either.
I hope you enjoy it, especially because next week we’ll be having another conversation with Joe Amato, this time on family history and its importance. Have a good week!
For Further Investigation
- In Episode 24 we first discussed local history, that time with Bob Beatty of the American Association of State and Local History.
- For something completely the opposite you might listen to Episode 26 with Peter Stearns on World History, or Episode 43 with Craig Benjamin on Big History.
- Joseph Amato has written and published a lot of books–too many to list here! But fortunately he has his own webpage and listing, which you can find here.