Southern Illinois

Southern Illinois (also known as "Little Egypt" or "Egypt") is the southern third of the state of Illinois. With the area code 618, the southern part of Illinois is geographically, culturally, and economically distinct from the rest of the state. The region is bordered on three of four sides by the most voluminous rivers in the United States: the Wabash and Ohio rivers to the east and south, and the Mississippi River and its connecting Missouri River to the west.

Southern Illinois' most populated city is currently Belleville at 44,478. Other principal cities include Collinsville, Edwardsville, Mt. Vernon, Marion, and Carbondale, where the main campus of Southern Illinois University is located. It also has a campus at Edwardsville. Residents travel to amenities in St. Louis and Cape Girardeau, Missouri; Evansville, Indiana; and Paducah, Kentucky.

The area has a population of 1.2 million people, who live mostly in rural towns and cities separated by extensive farmland and the Shawnee National Forest. The two most dense areas of population are Metro-East, which is the partly industrialized Illinois portion of the St. Louis Metropolitan Area and the Carbondale-Marion-Herrin, Illinois Combined Statistical Area, centered on Carbondale and Marion, a two-county area that is home to 123,272 residents.

The first settlers migrated from the Upland South, traveling by the Ohio River, and the region was affiliated with the southern agricultural economy and rural culture. Some settlers even owned slaves before the territory was organized and it was prohibited. Many areas developed an economy based on coal mining. Except for the counties in the St. Louis MSA, much of Southern Illinois is still culturally affiliated with western Kentucky, southwestern Indiana, and southeast Missouri, and the people speak with similar accents. Southern Illinois, the earliest settled and once the wealthiest part of Illinois, is known for its rich history and the abundance of antebellum architecture remaining in its small towns and cities.

Southern Illinois is slowly gaining a cultural identity apart from its neighbors. Formerly dispersed rural populations have become more centralized around the cities of Carbondale and Belleville.

Belleville is the region's largest city. East St. Louis was formerly the region's largest city at 80,000 people, but population declined with the loss of industrial jobs.

Read more about Southern Illinois:  Geography, Colleges and Universities, Historical Politics, Economy, Culture

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