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Y. Laberge on Frédéric Salmon's Atlas historique des États-Unis.

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1Frédéric Salmon, Atlas historique des États-Unis de 1783 à nos jours. Paris: Armand Colin, 2008. Pp.127. ISBN-13: 978-2200347604  

2This new, cultural, historical atlas of United States was entirely conceived by a French geographer named Frédéric Salmon; this is not a mere collection of old or already existing maps, but rather a brand new group of unique maps related to the geography, history and demographics of the USA, from the late 18th century to the early 21st century. It should not be mixed with mere road atlases. The publisher of the Atlas historique des États-Unis is Armand Colin, one of the oldest and most respected publishing houses in France. There is no English translation available at the moment.

3The atlas is divided into five main thematic sections: 1) territory and borders; 2) demographics; 3) race and ethnicity; 4) economy, transportation and society; 5) voting, elections, and public opinion. Some 253 original maps are provided. The variety of themes included is impressive: the “evolution of the population for every state from 1790 to 2000” (32), the “age of population according to states” (42), the “racial minorities and Mexicans in 1920” (52), but also the rates of diseases are compared from one state to another: obesity statistics, cancer, AIDS, suicides (89). Topics are varied, from energy consumption to unions (78). Visually, the guiding principle of the whole book is the same: on about every page the USA is represented in different colors related to a theme or a group of statistics. For example, some graphs depict the rates of homicides and death penalty at different historical moments for every state (99). Elsewhere, one map indicates the concentration of slaves according to states in 1860 and the proportion of “free Blacks” during the same year (50). Another map shows the proportion of persons who usually speak a language other than English at home (96). Many pages describe the evolution and changes of the West U.S. border in the 19th century (10-23). Among the most interesting maps, one can find the French toponymy in the USA (mainly names of cities that come from French), from Detroit to Bâton Rouge (73). The map that comes as a surprise however is the one representing the geography of country music in the southern regions of the United States (96).

4Since this is a historical atlas of the United States, the approach is often comparative and interdisciplinary, according to states, years, or selected themes. The accompanying texts by Frédéric Salmon are never too long and always practical, easy to follow, providing explanations on how to understand and interpret the related maps. Readers and students who have a minimal understanding of French will nonetheless appreciate and learn from this unique source, which has no equivalent in English. While there are many atlases available in all languages, this one gathers data, surveys and statistics that come from a great variety of official sources and censuses. A user could either read the book from cover to cover or consult it for quick reference, despite the fact that, as in many French books, there is no index (which I hope will be added in the second edition). However, readers who are color-blind might feel lost in its many colorful pages. In my view, this Atlas historique des États-Unis is an essential reference for libraries and research centres on American Studies. It will be an inspiration for students of history, geography, and demographics.

5Yves Laberge, Ph.D., Quebec City

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“Y. Laberge on Frédéric Salmon's Atlas historique des États-Unis.”European journal of American studies [Online], Reviews 2010-1, document 18, Online since 14 June 2010, connection on 21 September 2021. URL:

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