This book began thirty-plus years ago. Prior to 1960, the American Historical Association (AHA) published a number of document-based monographs, and Vernon Carstensen, then a professor of history at the University of Wisconsin—Madison, was invited to prepare documents and a narrative reflecting on the nature of the Dust Bowl experience. He did so promptly, but in the interim the AHA discontinued the series.
When John Wunder accepted an appointment at the University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Vernon Carstensen (VC to his students) sent the documents, his editorial comments, and his unpublished essay on the film The Plow That Broke the Plains to his former student. VC reasoned that because Wunder was now director of the Center for Great Plains Studies, the center might find the material of interest. Wunder thought his mentor's work had significant merit, and he sought the advice of the editor of the Great Plains Quarterly, Frances Kaye. Kaye agreed with Wunder and suggested that the documents and comments be supplemented with articles already published in the Quarterly and other articles selected from other journals. In due course, five Quarterly articles were selected for inclusion, along with two articles from North Dakota History and one article each from Annals of Iowa, Nebraska History, Agricultural History, South Dakota History, and Montana, Magazine of Western History.