Appalachians - History and Cultural Relations

The early settlers of the region were primarily of English, Scots-Irish, and Highland Scots ancestry with some Germans and Dutch. The life-style of the early settlers was much like that of other rural southerners and centered on farming, livestock herding, and hunting, both for subsistence and for a surplus to sell in nearby villages. When much of the South shifted to large-scale cotton growing after the Civil War, the soil and terrain in southern Appalachia could not support intensive agriculture and the prewar economy and life-style survived. Eventually, isolation from the regional economy, early pioneers' methods of clearing land for farming, and coal-mining and lumbering activities left the southern Appalachians an area of severe economic depression and the inhabitants labeled as "hillbillies." Since then, Appalachia has often been identified as an area characterized by widespread poverty, with less attention given to the growing middle class. Although education, health care, transportation, and economic conditions have all improved since the 1960s, the region still lags behind the nation. In the 1980s little of the traditional culture survives, save that which is exhibited for tourists.

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