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The Courtesan and the Gigolo
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Blood in the HillsBlood in the Hills

A History of Violence in Appalachia

Edited by Bruce E. Stewart

Narrated by Rich Brennan

Available from Audible

Book published by University Press of Kentucky

To many antebellum Americans, Appalachia was a frightening wilderness of lawlessness, peril, robbers, and hidden dangers. The extensive media coverage of horse stealing and scalping raids profiled the region's residents as intrinsically violent. After the Civil War, this characterization continued to permeate perceptions of the area and news of the conflict between the Hatfields and the McCoys, as well as the bloodshed associated with the coal labor strikes, cemented Appalachia's violent reputation. Blood in the Hills: A History of Violence in Appalachia provides an in-depth historical analysis of hostility in the region from the late eighteenth to the early twentieth century. Editor Bruce E. Stewart discusses aspects of the Appalachian violence culture, examining skirmishes with the native population, conflicts resulting from the region's rapid modernization, and violence as a function of social control. The contributors also address geographical isolation and ethnicity, kinship, gender, class, and race with the purpose of shedding light on an often-stereotyped regional past. Blood in the Hills does not attempt to apologize for the region but uses detailed research and analysis to explain it, delving into the social and political factors that have defined Appalachia throughout its violent history.

Bruce E. Stewart is assistant professor of history at Appalachian State University.


“A valuable and praiseworthy volume.”

The Journal of American History

“Highly recommended.”


“An important contribution.”

—Ronald Lewis, author of Welsh Americans: A History of Assimilation in the Coalfields

Blood in the Hills is the first systematic exploration of the myths and realities of violence in the Southern Appalachian region. An important work for scholars and students of Appalachian History that will add much to the field.”

—Daniel S. Pierce, author of Real NASCAR: White Lightning, Red Clay, and Big Bill France"

“The contributors to Blood in the Hills at once challenge the persistent myth of a culturally backward and inherently violent Appalachia while looking squarely at violence in the region to understand its complexity, sources, and consequences from the 18th to the early 20th centuries. Written by senior scholars and rising stars, most of them historians, these studies provide deep and critical insights into the role of violence in regional and national history and the political, economic, racial, and religious conflicts that engender it. While they challenge pejorative representations, they also provide an indispensable antidote to the all-too-prevalent romanticization of Appalachia.”

—Dwight Billings. author of Back Talk from Appalachia: Confronting Stereotypes

“Some of the region's brightest young scholars confront old images and received theories about mountain culture and offer new insights to violent episodes in the region's history. In so doing they tie that violence to 'deeper tensions within the fabric of American society.' A must read for those who seek to understand Appalachia as a window to the American experience rather than an exception to it.”

—Ronald D Eller, author of Uneven Ground: Appalachia since 1945

“Stewart challenges the myth of intrinsic agression... seek[ing] to understand, but not to underplay, the role of violence in Appalachia.”

Manchester Enterprise

“Prompts us to more carefully reconsider the role of violence in other American regions and cultures—a quality that makes it easily recommendable to a wide range of popular readers and scholars alike.”

North Carolina Historical Review

Blood in the Hills is an amazing contribution that should be read by historians and public policymakers if we are hopeful of ever reaching real solutions to the problems plaguing the region's lingering violence, poverty, and political corruption.”

—William Gorby, West Virginia History

Blood in the Hills is recommended for anyone studying Appalachia, especially North Carolina and Kentucky, as well as for those interested in post-Civil War violence in America.”

Georgia Libraries Quarterly

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University Press Audiobooks