The American West: A Twentieth-Century History

The American West: A Twentieth-Century History

The American West: A Twentieth-Century History

The American West: A Twentieth-Century History

Synopsis

The mystique of the Wild West perpetuated by Buffalo Bill, Zane Grey and Louis L'Amour, John Wayne, and the Marlboro Man has hindered the serious study of the real region west of the ninety-eighth meridian. Michael P. Malone and Richard W. Etulain move beyond myth and beyond the influential frontier thesis advanced by Frederick Jackson Turner to write about the American West as it has actually developed in the twentieth century. In vivid detail they describe a region too richly varied and dynamic to be contained by the imagination. Extending into the 1980s, The American West: A Twentieth-Century History is the first comprehensive survey of the modern West to appear in many years.

Malone and Etulain discuss economic, political, social, and cultural developments in the West from the turn of the century to the onset of the Great Depression, when the region was still in a colonial relationship to the urban, industrial Northeast and upper Midwest; from 1930 to the end of World War II, when the West was transformed by New Deal programs and by even greater federal spending in military installations; and from 1945 to the present, when the West experienced rapid changes in demographics and a series of trendsetting lifestyles. Unique to this history are chapters about the rich cultural heritage of the modern West and about the lives of men, women, and children of various ethnic groups. Detailed bibliographical essays are included.

Excerpt

When the young American Historical Association met in Chicago in 1893 as part of the World Columbian Exposition celebrating the discovery of the New World, little did that small gathering of historians realize that a paper presented to them would launch a new discovery of another kind. An exuberant young professor of history from the University of Wisconsin, Frederick Jackson Turner, read on that hot July 12 evening his momentous essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History." Although the paper neither startled his audience that evening nor immediately stunned the historical profession, it did within a few years dramatically change the way historians looked at both the American past and the American West. Turner had, in fact, presented the most significant and influential interpretation yet advanced concerning American history and culture.

The "frontier thesis," or "Turner thesis" as it became known, frontally challenged established views of American civilization that pointed to European legacies as the most notable formative influences in American history. Turner asserted, to the contrary, that the American frontier--not European traditions--had done the most to spawn the democracy, individualism, and nationalism he saw and celebrated in American society. in one of the boldest sentences of . . .

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