The Sociology of Southern Appalachia

Sociologists have been fascinated by the Appalachians ever since George Vincent of the University of Chicago took a four-day horseback ride through Breathitt, Perry, and Knott Counties in eastern Kentucky in 1898. Urging study of "this curious social survival ... now being modified so rapidly," Vincent concluded his descriptive and impressionistic account, "Let students of sociology leave their books and at first hand in the Cumberlands deal with the phenomena of a social order arrested at a relatively early state of evolution."1 Setting aside questions about the accuracy of Vincent's characterization of the region as a retarded frontier, we can see in his article two themes which predominate in sociological studies of Appalachia from his day to ours: social change and social problems.