Some Books About Illinoisans

Biographies, letters, and memoirs

See Illinois (unpublished)



This compilation of books about Illinoisans, notable and anonymous, was not systematic. Rather, it included mainly books that I'd consulted while writing my never-published guide to Illinois history and culture. It tends toward public people who are written about by other people and literary types who write about themselves. Conspicuous from this and most other lists are books about the many influential businesspeople, who've hardly been written about at all.


Politicians and elected officials


Illinois politicians have numbered among them as many charlatans and rogues as dedicated public servants—and yes, Illinois has those too. Interesting as well as important, politicians and elected officials have inspired a sizable library of books whose quality varies as much as that of their subjects.

A work that is basic to an understanding of the politics of the early statehood era is John Francis Snyder’s Adam W. Snyder and His Period in Illinois History, 1817-1842 (first printed by The H. W. Rokker Co. in Springfield in 1903). This account of this politician and militiaman  contains interesting material about early St. Clair County.

An interesting memoir was written by Illinois’s fourth governor, Cahokia’s John Reynolds,  My Own Times, Embracing Also the History of My Life (Belleville, Ill., 1855; reprinted Chicago, 1879). Not much of a writer, Reynolds was (in the words of Rodney O. Davis) a “fascinating frontier figure.“ It has been noted that his prose “leaned toward the vernacular and . . . introduced slang of his own,” making him the only Illinois governor to leave a mark on literature. 


Lyman Trumbull was an Illinois U.S. Senator during the Civil War and who co-authored the Thirteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which abolished slavery. Historian John Y. Simon regarded Horace White’s The Life of Lyman Trumbull (Houghton Mifflin, 1913) as better than more recent lives of that Belleville attorney. Other treatments of that life are Mark M. Krug’s Lyman Trumbull, Conservative Radical (A. S. Barnes, 1965) and His Own Counsel: The Life and Times of Lyman Trumbull by Ralph L. Roske (University of Nevada Press, 1979).

Willard L. King recalls the man who directed Lincoln’s Presidential campaigns in  Lincoln’s Manager, David Davis (Harvard University Press, 1960). Mark A. Plummer’s Lincoln's Rail Splitter: Governor Richard J. Oglesby (University of Illinois Press, 2001) introduces readers to the man who was Illinois governor from 1865 to 1869 and again from 1885 to 1889 and—no less significantly in the mid of the larger public—came up with the rail-splitter image for Abraham Lincoln's successful presidential campaign of 1860.

Stephen A. Douglas by Robert W. Johannsen (Oxford University Press, 1973) was described by John Y. Simon a “magnificent” work that ”supplants all other Douglas biographies.” Johannsen, the long-time J. G. Randall Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, also gave us The Frontier, the Union, and Stephen A. Douglas (University of Illinois Press, 1989).

Black Jack: John A. Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era (Southern Illinois University Press, 2002) by Florida State University historian James Pickett Jones was first published in 1967. Jones’s John A. Logan: Stalwart Republican from Illinois takes up the post-Civil War years of Logan’s eventful life. First published in 1982 by the University Presses of Florida, the book was added to Southern Illinois University Press’s long list of Shawnee Classics in 2001.

Joel Arthur Tarr, A Study in Boss Politics: William Lorimer of Chicago (University of Illinois Press, 1971) is an outstanding work, emphasizing Lorimer’s role in helping immigrant minorities, tracing his career in Congress, and defending him against old-stock reformers who brought about his ouster from the Senate in 1912.

Now forgotten, but once a political titan as Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives in the pre-World War I era, Joe Cannon is the subject of  Tyrant from Illinois: Uncle Joe Cannon’s Experiment with Personal Power (W. W. Norton & Company, 1951) by Blair Bolles was reprinted in 1974 by the Greenwood Press.

Most memoirs by Illinois governors have been self-serving. Most, such as Richard Yates and Catharine Yates Pickering’s Serving the Republic: Richard Yates, Illinois Governor and Congressman, son of Richard Yates, Civil War Governor; an autobiography (Edited by John H. Krenkel and published  by Danville’s Interstate Printers & Publishers in 1966) are justifiably ignored. Not so Lowden of Illinois: The Life of Frank O. Lowden (University of Chicago Press, 1957) by William T. Hutchinson, which what is probably the best book about any Illinois governor.

John Peter Altgeld was Illinois’s most famous political figure in the post-Civil War 1800s. Harry Barnard, “Eagle Forgotten”: The Life of John Peter Altgeld (Indianapolis, 1938) is usually recommended. Altgeld’s already dramatic life was fictionalized in The American: A Middle Western Legend (Duell, Sloan and Pearce, 1946) by Howard Fast, the “champion of the progressive novel in the United States” who is better known for writing Spartacus.

Also on Illinois's short roster of progressive governors are Edward Dunne and Henry Horner. Richard Allen Morton gave us Justice and Humanity: Edward F. Dunne, Illinois Progressive (Southern Illinois University Press, 1997). Illinois's Depression-era governor, Henry Horner, unusually, has attracted two serious biographers. Thomas B. Littlewood’s Horner of Illinois (Northwestern University Press, 1969). A more recent and somewhat specialized treatment is Charles J. Masters’ Governor Henry Horner, Chicago Politics, and the Great Depression (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007).

The Politics of Honor: A Biography of Adlai E. Stevenson by Kenneth S. Davis, (revised edition, G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1967) is probably too admiring in its interpretations but is crammed with information. The first volume of John Bartlow Martin, The Life of Adlai E. Stevenson, subtitled Adlai Stevenson of Illinois (Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1976) is generally honored as the definitive biography and has the added virtue of being readable.

The Stevensons: A Biography of an American Family by the well-known historian Jean H. Baker (W.W. Norton & Co., 1997) not only explains Adlai II but recalls the life and career of his grandfather, Adlai Stevenson I, a 19th century Democratic Party giant now almost forgotten.

Historian Ralph Stone calls The Midwesterner: The Story of Dwight H. Green (Wilcox & Follett Co., 1948) by Robert J. Casey and W. A. S. Douglas “woefully inadequate,” it being in effect a campaign biography. 


Former journalists-turned-biographers are the most prolific chroniclers of recent Illinois pols. William G. Stratton is the subject of David Kenney’s A Political Passage: The Career of Stratton of Illinois (Southern Illinois University Press, 1990). Hartley's Big Jim Thompson of Illinois (Rand McNally, 1979) recounts the life and career until his return to private life of the man who was governor longer than any person in Illinois history.

Holding a seat in the U.S. Senate for 30 years is a distinction if not an honor, and James W. Neilson explains how it was done by one Springfieldian at the turn of the 20th century in Shelby M. Cullom, Prairie State Republican (Urbana, 1962).


Crusading Liberal: Paul H. Douglas of Illinois by Roger Biles (Northern Illinois University Press, 2002) is a solid account of the life of a key figure in public issues from the 1930s through the late 1960s. Generally considered among the few political memoirs worth reading, In the Fullness of Time: The Memoirs of Paul H. Douglas (Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1972) recalls his climb—if that is the word—from the University of Chicago to Washington.

Everett Dirksen, Pekin’s gift to oratory, received a biography not quite as colorful as he was in Dirksen of Illinois. Senatorial Statesman by Edward L. Schapsmeier and Frederick H. Schapsmeier (University of Illinois Press, 1985). Charles H. Percy: A Political Perspective by Robert E. Hartley Rand-McNally, 1975) remembers the one-time bright young thing of the Republican Party who replaced Douglas in the U.S. Senate from 1967 until 1985, as does David Murray’s Charles Percy of Illinois (Harper and Row, 1968).

In Power House: Arrington from Illinois (American Literary Press, 2006), former Post-Dispatch man Taylor Pensoneau recalls the career of Russell Arrington, who served in the General Assembly from 1945 to 1973 and as Senate President did work that earned him praise as  “the father of the modern General Assembly.” The Man Who Emptied Death Row : Governor George Ryan and the politics of crime by james L. Merriner (Southern Illinois University Press, 2008) is readable and astute.


Paul Powell of Illinois: A Lifelong Democrat by Robert E. Hartley (Southern Illinois University Press, 1999) recounts the life of the veteran political fixer. Powell, the pride of Vienna, served three terms as Speaker of the Illinois House, four terms as minority leader, and two terms as secretary of state, was for decades one of the most influential, albeit not the most powerful, men in Illinois politics. Powell never earned a state salary of more than $30,000 per year, yet at his death his estate totaled $3.2 million; the source of the cache of hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in the Springfield hotel room win which he died remains mysterious.  

More candid than most is The Maverick And The Machine: Governor Dan Walker Tells His Story By Dan Walker (Southern Illinois University Press, 2007). The account includes his rise in corporate heights, his unsuccessful terms as an anti-machine reformer, and his  felony conviction for post-governor financial shenanigans. It includes Walker’s unremarkably critical views of the Illinois political culture he so signally failed to reform.

Not all Illinois’s public figures have full-length biographies, or deserve one. Several collections of capsule biographies serve instead. Robert Howard’s Mostly Good and Competent Men (Illinois Issues and the Illinois State Historical Society, 1988) treats Springfield’s official First Citizens comprehensively, and perforce describes life in Springfield’s city within the city known as the capital complex. Veteran political writers David Kenney and Robert E. Hartley authored An Uncertain Tradition: U.S. Senators from Illinois, 1818–2003 (Southern Illinois University Press, 2003) is part brief bios, part political history, and useful as both. A similar approach was used by Robert P. Howard for his Mostly Good and Competent Men: Illinois Governors 1818-1988, first published in 1988, with a revised and expanded edition put out in 2007 by Illinois Issues magazine and the University of Illinois at Springfield Center for State Policy and Leadership.


Illinois had many residents of note who were not politicians in the usual sense. A few have been made the subject of books. 


The most comprehensive edition of the Life of Ma-ka-tai-me-she-kia-kiak or Black Hawk is Donald Jackson’s, which was retitled Black Hawk: An Autobi­ography when it was published by the University of Illinois Press in 1955 and again in 1990 as one of its Prairie State Books. Jackson’s is an excellent summary of the editorial history of this problematic autobiography. Historian John Hallwas calls the book not only the earliest Illinois autobiography, or the first Indian autobiography in America, but a classic of Midwestern literature.


Mid-Illinois’ small towns and farms have produced three interesting works that provide rich portraits of the region’s past. Christiana Holmes Tillson was a well-educated Massachusettsan who in the 1820s joined her husband for their new life in Montgomery County. Her A Woman's Story of Pioneer Illinois was privately published in the 1870s. A 1919 edition was reprinted in 1995 with a new introduction by Kay J. Carr (Southern Illinois University Press, 1995). My review of the book is here

Rebecca Burlend arrived in the Military Tract in 1831 from Yorkshire with her husband and children. They set about making a farm on eighty acres worth of Newburg Township of Pike County. An account of her adventures appeared in England in 1848 and later as A True Picture of Emigration, one of the outstanding accounts of frontier life in Illinois. The edition that brought it fame featured an introduction by Milo Milton Quaife (Lakeside Press, R. R. Donnelley & Sons Co., 1936).

Eliza Farnham’s Life in Prairie Land Arno Press, 1972) recalls how that woman came west to Illinois in the spring of 1836 from upstate New York, eventually to wed and begin a family in the Tazewell County village of Tremont. That part of Illinois was just emerging from its frontier phase, and the life Farnham describes—deaths of her sister and her own first-born, battles against disease and wild animals, the daunting labor of building a homestead—reminds us how inadequate is the word “settling” to describe the process of making homes on a frontier.

Peter Cartwright, Legendary Frontier Preacher by Robert Bray (University of Illinois Press, 2005) is the first full-length biography of this most famous of the early nineteenth-century Methodist circuit-riding preachers who also was a politician and literary figure. Cartwright had a long and often contentious relationship with Lincoln, which Bray explores in depth. The Autobiography of Peter Cartwright, from 1856, is less a modern autobiography than a collection of frontier tales (both tall and regular height). The book was made available in 2005 in a new edition from the University of Illinois Press featuring an introduction by Bray.

Owen Lovejoy, minister, brother to the martyred Elijah, and resident of Princeton in Bureau County, was an important Republican congressman from northern Illinois; his career is described in Owen Lovejoy, Abolitionist in Congress by Edward Magdol (Rutgers University Press, 1967). Freedom's Champion: Elijah Lovejoy, a 1964 biography of the abolitionist martyr by U.S. Sen. Paul Simon, was revised and republished by the Southern Illinois University Press in 1994.

Alton’s martyr to free newspapers and freed slaves is recalled in Merton L. Dillon’s Elijah P. Lovejoy, Abolitionist Editor (University of Illinois Press, 1961), which is still usually referred to as the best modern biography of Lovejoy, and Freedom's Champion—Elijah Lovejoy by Paul Simon (Southern Illinois University Press, 1994).

Black Jack: John A. Logan and Southern Illinois in the Civil War Era (Southern Illinois University Press, 2002) by Florida State University historian James Pickett Jones was first published in 1967. Jones’s John A. Logan: Stalwart Republican from Illinois takes up the post-Civil War years of Logan’s eventful life. First published in 1982 by the University Presses of Florida, the book was added to Southern Illinois University Press’s long list of Shawnee Classics in 2001.

Mrs. John A. Logan was no more a mere soldier’s wife than her famous husband was merely a soldier. Reminiscences of a Soldier's Wife (with a new foreword by John Y. Simon, Southern Illinois University Press, 1997) ranges from her birthplace in southern Illinois in 1838 to the Capitol to the salons of Europe.


The Memoirs of Gustave Koerner, 1809-1896, Belleville’s German-American leader, is a history of both the politics of antebellum Illinois and of the German settlements in and around the American Bottom (Thomas J. McCormack, ed., The Torch Press, 1909). Paul Angle called Koerner’s Memoirs “a neglected American classic.”

John Buchan Eads, Master of the Great River, by Rosemary Yager. D. Van Nostrand Co., 1968 tells the story of the engineer who designed the bridges across the Mississippi at St Louis that bears his name; it was the world's first steel-arch railroad bridge when it was opened to traffic in 1874. See also The Eads Bridge by Howard S. Miller and Quinta Scott (second edition, University of Missouri Press, 1999)

Villard: The Life and Times of an American Titan By Alexandra Villard de Borchgrave and John Cullen (Doubleday, 2001). A reviewer for The Economist states that many of the Latin Farmers of Metro East “made a hash of raising corn or cattle. But these landed failures soon turned their cultivation to use in other fields, none more successfully or colorfully than Henry Villard. His story is worth telling and in this biography it is told well."

Cedarville’s Jane Addams is much written about. Unfortunately, most biographies (including her own) concentrate not on her girlhood in Stephenson County but her years at Hull House and on the national and world stage. An exception is A Useful Woman: The Early Life Of Jane Addams by Gioia Diliberto (Scribner, 1999).

The ever-poetical Margaret Fuller, in Summer on the Lakes, in 1843 (University of Illinois Press, 1991), recounted her journey through what was then considered the far western frontier in mid-nineteenth-century America, including Illinois’s Rock River country.

Edgar Lee Masters’ autobiography, Across Spoon River, was self-pitying and dull. (The book first appeared in 1936; in 1991 it was reissued with a new introduction by Ronald Primeau by the University of Illinois.) Masters himself wrote a dismissive biography of Lincoln, Lincoln, The Man, and a generous one of Vachel Lindsay.

Carl Sandburg’s memoirs of his boyhood in Galesburg, Always the Young Strangers (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1953) and Ever the Winds of Chance (Urbana : University of Illinois Press, 1983) are affectionate and rich; they were reprinted in 1991 by Harvest Books. An America That Was: What Life Was Like On an Illinois Farm Seventy Years Ago by Albert Britt (Barre, Mass.: Barre Publishers, 1964) tells us just that. The Third Kind of Knowledge by Robert Fitzgerald (New Directions,  1993) contains nice recollections of the author’s youth in Springfield—more about family than town—and a grateful reminiscence of its best-known poet Vachel Lindsay, whom Fitzgerald knew as a young man.


While he found it poorly produced, Paul T. Nolan of the University of Southwestern Louisiana concluded that American Infidel: Robert G. Ingersoll by Orvin Larson (New York: Citadel Press, 1962) “will not only find a place on the shelf of anyone interested in American culture; it will be read with enjoyment before it is placed there.”

Two brothers from a remarkable Grand Prairie family have given pictures of life in Hope and Urbana at the turn of the twentieth century. The Autobiography of Mark Van Doren (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1958) and part one of Three Worlds by Carl Van Doren (New York: Harper, 1936) concern their years in Champaign County. The latter was published separately as An Illinois Boyhood (New York: The Viking Press, 1939).

First published in 1872, the Autobiography of Silas Thompson Trowbridge M.D. recounts the life of a young Indianan, trained as a teacher, who undertook a self-study of medicine and starting a medical practice near New Castle, which he later moved to Decatur, only later getting a legitimate MD. Trowbridge was a Civil War surgeon, president of the Illinois State Medical Society, and, as U.S. Consul to Vera Cruz, a pioneer in new treatments for yellow fever. His book was republished (with a new introduction by John S. Haller Jr. and Barbara Mason) by Southern Illinois University Press in 2004 as part of the SIU Press’s Shawnee Classics series.

John Hay: From Poetry to Politics by Tyler Dennett (Dodd, Mead & Company, 1933) recalls the extraordinary life of the boy raised in Warsaw and Pittsfield who became private secretary and biographer to Abraham Lincoln, Civil War officer, U.S ambassador to the United Kingdom, and Secretary of State. More recent biographies of Hay focus on his career as a diplomat.

Southern Illinoisans, happily, do not insist that a life has to be important to be worth recalling in print. No other part of Illinois boasts so many memoirs by ordinary citizens. Always Of Home: A Southern Illinois Childhood (1993) by Edgar Allen Imhoff (Southern Illinois University Press, 1993) is typical of the current crop, as is From Our House: A Memoir (Dutton, 2000) by Lee Martin. In The Earth Is Ours (1948), Marion Pedersen Teal, a transplanted Egyptian, does not quite conceal the condescension she felt toward her neighbors in the area. In Meaningful Connections (Steindorff Press, 1995), Harry W. Stonecipher, an emeritus professor at SIU-Carbondale, recollects his youth in Southern Illinois and his subsequent life there as a newspaperman and teacher. 

Carbondale’s founder, Daniel Harmon Brush, wrote an intriguing autobiography which Milo Quaife prepared for publication as Growing Up with Southern Illinois, 1820 to 1861: From the Memoirs of Daniel Harmon Brush (Lakeside Press, 1944).

In Foothold on a Hillside: Memories of a Southern Illinoisan, Charless Caraway recalls life as man and boy on small farms in Saline and Jackson counties, particularly around Eldorado, Makanda, and Etherton Switch in the early days of the century. (Southern Illinois University, 1986, reprinted as a Shawnee Classic in 1999.) John Hallwas recommends Ruby Berkley Goodwin's It’s Good to be Black (Southern Illinois University Press, 1976), a memoir of the Berkley family in DuQuoin, a mining town, and of small-town community life in the early 20th century and a book that begs to made into a heartwarming family film. Shirley Motley Portwood givers perspective of that Illinois in Tell Us a Story: An African American Family in the Heartland (Southern Illinois University Press, 2000).

Norma Jacke Tucker’s memoir, Between the High Knob and the Devil's Backbone (Good Read Press, 2000) and its sequel, Over the Hills and Far Away: Stories and Illustration (Good Read Press, 2000) look at the region’s poverty through the rosy lens of nostalgia. Similar but less lively is Robert Hastings memoirs, A Nickel's Worth of Skim Milk: A Boy's View of the Great Depression, University Graphics and Publications, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, 1972), which was popular enough to merit a sequel in the form of A Penny's Worth of Minced Ham: Another Look at the Great Depression (Southern Illinois University Press, 1986).

In All Anybody Ever Wanted of Me Was to Work: The Memoirs of Edith Bradley Rendleman (edited by Jane Adams, Southern Illinois University Press, 1996) the author recalled her daily life in the Mississippi bottoms west of Wolf Lake in Union County. Her account is notable for its lack of nostalgia—one of her chapters is titled, “Bedbugs, Fleas, and Hired Hands”—and its detail.

Fictionalized biographies


Before Mark Harris earned his reputation with such novels as Bang the Drum Slowly, he wrote the novel-cum-biography titled City of Discontent about Springfield poet Vachel Lindsay; it was out of print for years until it was reissued in 1992 by the University of Illinois Press, as part of the latter’s Prairie State Books series. 

William Maxwell’s stories and novels of Lincoln, Illinois, are autobiographies in everything but name. In Sons of the Puritans, Don Marquis wrote an autobiography in the form of a coming-of-age novel (Doubleday, Doran & Co., Inc., 1939). It features the stock characters of the small town comedy, the most interesting of whom is the youthful author/hero.

Some people would list Life of Black Hawk (see above) among fictionalized biographies. Questions also have been raised about Rebecca Burland's A True Picture of Emigration. Just sayin.' ●




John Hallwas

Essential for anyone interested in Illinois history and literature. Hallwas deservedly won the 2018 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Illinois State Historical Society.

Lee Sandlin Author

One of Illinois’s best, and least-known, writers of his generation. Take note in particular of The Distancers and Road to Nowhere.

Chicago Architecture Center

See Home Page/Learn/

Resources for a marvelous building database, architecture dictionary, even a city planning graphic novel. Handsome, useful—every Illinois culture website should be so good.

The Encyclopedia of Chicago


The online version of The Encyclopedia of Chicago. Crammed with thousands of topic entries, biographical sketches, maps and images, it is a reference work unmatched in Illinois.

Illinois Great Places

The Illinois chapter of the American Institute of Architects in 2018 selected 200 Great Places in Illinois that illustrate our  shared architectural culture across the entire period of human settlement in Illinois.

McLean County Museum

of History

A nationally accredited, award-winning project of the McLean County Historical Society whose holdings include more than 20,000 objects, more than 15,000 books on local history and genealogy, and boxes and boxes of historical papers and images.

Mr. Lincoln, Route 66, and Other Highlights of Lincoln, Illinois


Every Illinois town ought to have a chronicler like D. Leigh Henson, Ph.D. Not only Lincoln and the Mother road—the author’s curiosity ranges from cattle baron John Dean Gillett to novelist William Maxwell. An Illinois State Historical Society "Best Web Site of the Year."

Illinois Digital Archives


Created in 2000, the IDA is a repository for the digital collections of the Illinois State Library and other Illinois libraries and cultural institutions. The holdings include photographs, slides, and glass negatives, oral histories, newspapers, maps, and documents from manuscripts and letters to postcards,  posters, and videos.

The Illinois State Museum


The people's museum is a treasure house of science and the arts. A research institution of national reputation, the museum maintains four facilities across the state. Their collections in anthropology, fine and decorative arts, botany, zoology, geology, and  history are described here. A few museum publications can be obtained here.

Chronicling Illinois

“Chronicling Illinois” showcases some of the collections—mostly some 6,000 photographs—from the Illinois history holdings of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library.


I will leave it to the authors of this interesting site to describe it. "Chicagology is a study of Chicago history with a focus on the period prior to the Second World War. The purpose of the site is to document common and not so common stories about the City of Chicago as they are discovered." 

Illinois Labor History Society

The Illinois Labor History Society seeks to encourage the preservation and study of labor history materials of the Illinois region, and to arouse public interest in the profound significance of the past to the present. Offers books reviews, podcasts, research guides, and the like. 

Illinois Migration History 1850-2017

The University of Washington’s America’s Great Migrations Project has compiled migration histories  (mostly from the published and unpublished work by UW Professor of History James Gregory) for several states, including Illinois. The site also includes maps and charts and essays about the Great Migration of African Americans to the north, in which Illinois figured importantly. 

History on the Fox

An interesting resource about the history of one of Illinois’s more interesting places, the Fox Valley of Kendall County. History on the Fox is the work of Roger Matile, an amateur historian of the best sort. Matile’s site is a couple of cuts above the typical buff’s blog. (An entry on the French attempt to cash in on the trade in bison pelts runs more than

2,000 words.)




Southern Illinois University Press 2017

A work of solid history, entertainingly told.

Michael Burlingame,

author of Abraham 

Lincoln: A Life 

One of the ten best books on Illinois history I have read in a decade.

Superior Achievement Award citation, ISHS Awards, 2018

A lively and engaging study . . .  an enthralling narrative.

James Edstrom

The Annals of Iowa

A book that merits the attention of all Illinois historians

as well as local historians generally.

John Hoffman

Journal of Illinois HIstory

A model for the kind of detailed and honest history other states and regions could use.

Harold Henderson 

Midwestern Microhistory

A fine example of a resurgence of Midwest historical scholarship.

Greg Hall

Journal of the Illinois

State Historical Society

Click  here 

to read about

the book 

Click  here 

to buy the book 


Southern Illinois University Press

SIU Press is one of the four major university publishing houses in Illinois. Its catalog offers much of local interest, including biographies of Illinois political figures, the history (human and natural) and folklore of southern Illinois, the Civil War and Lincoln, and quality reprints in the Shawnee Classics series.

University of

Illinois Press

The U of I Press was founded in 1918. A search of the online catalog  (Books/Browse by subject/Illinois) will reveal more than 150 Illinois titles, books on history mostly but also butteflies, nature , painting, poetry and fiction, and more.  Of particular note are its Prairie State Books,  quality new paperback editions of worthy titles about all parts of Illinois, augmented with scholarly introductions.

University of

Chicago Press

The U of C publishing operation is the oldest (1891) and largest university press in Illinois. Its reach is international, but it has not neglected its own neighborhood. Any good Illinois library will include dozens of titles about Chicago and Illinois from Fort Dearborn to

Vivian Maier.

Northern Illinois University Press

The newest (1965) and the smallest of the university presses with an interest in Illinois, Northern Illinois University Press gave us important titles such as the standard one-volume history of the state (Biles' Illinois:
A History of the Land and Its People) and contributions to the history of Chicago, Illinois transportation, and the Civil War. Now an imprint of Cornell University Press.


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Reviews and significant mentions by James Krohe Jr. of more than 50 Illinois books, arranged in alphabetical order

by book title. 


Illinois Center for the Book

Run by the Illinois State Library, The Center promotes reading, writing and author programs meant to honor the state's rich literary heritage. An affiliate of the Library of Congress’s Center for the Book, the site offers award competitions, a directory of Illinois authors, literary landmarks, and reading programs.