The Hunting of the Buffalo

The Hunting of the Buffalo

The Hunting of the Buffalo

The Hunting of the Buffalo

Synopsis

The Hunting of the Buffalo, originally published in 1929, tells all about the marvelous and useful animal that once roamed the American plains. Its gradual extermination is chronicled by E. Douglas Branch, who drew on rich materials, including Indian legends, old letters and diaries, and tales of frontier travelers. No one has ever written more memorably about the great herds, their habits and haunts, their importance to the Indians, their discovery by awed whites, their decimation by huge cultural and economic forces.

Excerpt

Andrew C. Isenberg

When first published nearly seventy years ago, The Hunting of the Buffalo by the young Texas historian Edward Douglas Branch was outside of the mainstream of western history, and it still resists categorization. Branch drew on both conservative and radical trends in historical scholarship. He was by turns forward-thinking, representative of his time, and old-fashioned even by the standards of his day. His conflicted perspective on western history was at once romantic and skeptical. Although Hunting of the Buffalo is eclectic, it was well received on first publication. Reviewers praised Branch not only for his lively prose but for bringing to light the history of the bison's demise. Yet Branch not only told the story of the bison. In the words of the historian John D. Hicks, who reviewed the book for the Mississippi Valley Historical Review when it was first published, Branch had written a history of the frontier "viewed this time from the angle of the retreating buffalo." Branch's ability to write from this perspective has been the book's most unique and enduring quality.

The western historian Gerald D. Nash has argued that Hunting of the Buffalo "advanced the thesis that the demise of the buffalo provided a key to the understanding of the frontier and its disappearance." Yet the book reflects little of the influence of Frederick Jackson Turner, the author of the seminal essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History," and a dominant figure in the field of western history even after his retirement from Harvard University in 1924. Indeed, Branch largely ignored Turner's emphasis on the influences of the frontier on the social, economic, and political institutions of the United States. Instead, he looked elsewhere for his intellectual inspiration, recalling an older (and more popular) historiographical tradition: the romantic West of such nineteenthcentury historians as Francis Parkman and Theodore Roosevelt. Like . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.