Woodside on Hudson, 'Across This Land: A Regional Geography of the United States and Canada'

John C. Hudson
Christine Woodside

John C. Hudson. Across This Land: A Regional Geography of the United States and Canada. Creating the North American Landscape, second edition. Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2020. 520 pp. $72.00 (paper), ISBN 978-1-4214-3758-3.

Reviewed by Christine Woodside (University of Connecticut) Published on H-Environment (September, 2022) Commissioned by Daniella McCahey (Texas Tech University)

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Christine Woodside on John C. Hudson, Across this Land

In this second edition of a comprehensive reference, John C. Hudson, director of the Northwestern University geography program, examines the land region by region through its geology and how humans have interacted with it. Hudson has taught a course on North America for four decades and has modeled this book after his teaching.

This edition updates the first edition of 2002. Hudson has updated or added sections about Native peoples’ activities, climate change in the Arctic, farm data from the 2017 Census of Agriculture, and oil and gas production, especially fracking.

Hudson covers a large range of human history on the land because he organizes the book along geographic boundaries. Ten sections on large regions subdivide into a total of twenty-seven regions. He leaves out Mexico, he writes, because for many years geographers “traditionally” called North America without Mexico “Anglo America” and included Mexico with “Latin America. And he admits in this edition, “Mexico probably ought to be considered jointly with the United States and Canada, but I must respectfully yield to others who know Mexico far better than I do, to take that step” (p. xviii). This suggests, one hopes, that a new generation of geographers might wish to build on Hudson’s work and begin to look at the whole continent of North America. This would certainly line up with many modern historians’ approaches.

The strength of Across This Land, as Hudson writes, is that it finds connections between the landscapes and how people use them. This approach refutes what he has witnessed in the academic community as “increased separation between physical and human dimensions of geographical research.” He also writes, “My own biases about the best way to write regional geography include a belief that books on the subject have suffered not from being too place-specific but rather from being insufficiently so” (p. xvi).

Historians, geographers, and other social science scholars can use this guide to better understand the environment’s influence on history. North American life often been a clash of motivations and the land. This geography makes a useful resource for historians teaching survey courses.

The major limitation of the book is that it can be chronological only within each regional section. Hudson admits, also, that the organizational principle around geographic regions does not lend itself to narrative details.

In this new edition Hudson has added sections about or mentions of Native peoples’ influence and activity on the continent before European contact (and occasionally up to the current century). Several times these mentions appear after discussions of how colonial settlers interacted with the land. To a reader, this could come off as treating Native Americans’ many years of dominance as parenthetical references. Nevertheless, Hudson’s efforts to incorporate what can be learned about Native peoples are admirable.

Citation: Christine Woodside. Review of Hudson, John C., Across This Land: A Regional Geography of the United States and Canada. H-Environment, H-Net Reviews. September, 2022. URL:

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