The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War

The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War

The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War

The American West Transformed: The Impact of the Second World War

Synopsis

The industrialization of the American West during World War II brought about rapid and far-reaching social, cultural, and economic changes. Gerald D. Nash shows that the effect of the war on that region was nothing less than explosive.

Excerpt

This book has a simple theme: that the Second World War transformed the American West. No other single influence on the region -- not the Mexican War, not the Civil War, not World War I, nor even the Great Depression -- brought such great and cataclysmic changes to the West. It transformed a colonial economy based on the exploitation of raw materials into a diversified economy that included industrial and technological components. It spawned another significant population boom and brought unprecedented expansion to most western cities. It greatly diversified the ethnic and racial composition of the West, particularly by encouraging the influx of large numbers of black Americans and of Spanish-speaking people. It opened up new opportunities for Native Americans at the same time that it created new problems for them. In addition, it unveiled new directions for science in the West and served to quicken and deepen the cultural life of the region. In four short years the war brought a maturation to the West that in peacetime might have taken generations to accomplish. It transformed an area with a self-image that emphasized colonialism into one boasting self-sufficiency and innovation.

Such a transformation should be viewed not as an isolated event but as one of the crucial turning points in the broad sweep of western history. In the development of the region during the last four hundred years only a few major events have had such an extraordinary impact. One such turning point was the arrival of the first European explorers and settlers to the region beginning in the sixteenth century. Another was the California Gold Rush of 1849 and related land and mining rushes in the trans-Mississippi West in the ensuing two decades. These promoted a major population movement into the area, followed by intensive settlement and development. The lure of . . .

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