American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

4
Agriculture and Livestock
Production

JAMES W. WHITAKER

Carl Bridenbaugh, in a little gem, Fat Mutton and Liberty of Conscience, touched on two important points when he said that the notable fact of colonial America was its "ruralness" and that an "urban ignorance" has affected historians who write about the period. That is a straightforward proposition compared with the larger problem of the definitional morass posed by trying to discuss agriculture on the frontier or in the West. Colonial status has a specific parameter that frontier or West does not have. How long is a region a frontier, and does an urban bias inform our treatment of both agriculture and the frontier? The general question of when a region is no longer a frontier is discussed by the editor. However, as noted by two scholars speaking to the Western History Association, because the American West is peripatetic, where it (and the frontier that is part of it) is depends on where you sit.1 Gilbert Fite, at a bicentennial symposium, defined pioneer farming rather broadly, and for the purposes of this discussion of agriculture and livestock on the frontier, the frontier era is broadly interpreted so that one is not faced with hair-splitting discussion of whether a farmer selling a surplus (or "subsistence surplus") is or is not a pioneer on the frontier.2 Instead, both location and chronology will be considered as components of frontier definition. The distinction between an undeveloped frontier and a wellestablished commercial agricultural economy is blurred, but the choice here has been toward those works that illuminate the early development of the agricultural economy and the processes by which it became commercial. The transition may have been short in time or have taken many years, depending on the circumstances. Since the 1960s, writing on agricultural and livestock history in reference to the frontier has not seen any dramatic change, but there have been evolutionary shifts. Those interested in both older material and the broader development of agriculture in the Trans-Mississippi West after the pioneer period should see Gilbert C. Fite, "The American West of Farmers Stockmen."3 In recent decades, the whole field of historical writing has been influenced by the application of

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American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vi
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • Notes 6
  • 2 - The Environment and the Frontier 7
  • Notes 21
  • 3 - Economic Development of the American West 27
  • Notes 42
  • 4 - Agriculture and Livestock Production 51
  • Notes 60
  • 5 - Frontier Urbanization 69
  • Notes 82
  • 6 - Frontier and Western Transportation 89
  • Notes 104
  • 7 - Mining Frontiers 109
  • Notes 124
  • 8 - Frontier Social History 131
  • Notes 144
  • 9 - Historians and Indians 149
  • Notes 169
  • 10 - Frontier Women 179
  • Notes 194
  • 11 - Ethnic Groups and the Frontier 199
  • Notes 211
  • 12 - Foreign Affairs and Expansion 217
  • Notes 229
  • 13 - Territorial Government 235
  • Notes 244
  • 14 - The Frontier Army 253
  • Notes 264
  • Sources and Repositories for Frontier and Western History 275
  • Index 279
  • About the Contributors 301
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