American Frontier and Western Issues: A Historiographical Review

By Roger L. Nichols | Go to book overview

system. Even more specific would be a good balanced account of the Mexican War, using both U.S. and Mexican sources and which traces development on both sides of the conflict, and a similar account using the records of Colombia and Nicaragua, which provides a Central American perspective on the isthmian canal question.

Finally, there will be the steady flow of studies of specific events and individuals. Every generation writes its own history, and that is how it should be. A few examples follow standard subjects that need updating: Samuel Flagg Bemis ' Pulitzer Prize-winning study of John Quincy Adams and the Foundations of American Foreign Policy will be forty years old in 1989. Its research is enormous and impeccable, but its stirring nationalism seems out of touch with modern sensibilities. The events of the Texas revolution and war for independence need contemporary coverage. Someone who would link population movement, cultural clashes, and personalities would produce a good modern account of the Texas question. Charles Sellers has not yet published the final volume of his biography of James K. Polk, the one that deals with the war with Mexico. Someone should produce a good modern study of Polk's presidency. The standard work on the Gadsden Treaty, rounding out the contours of the U.S.-Mexican boundary, appeared in 1923. 43 It is badly outdated. A new version that dealt with the interrelationship of railroad interests, domestic U.S. politics, and Mexican politics would be a useful monograph.

In sum, the scholarship on expansion of the past generation has demonstrated the close collections between domestic and foreign politics. It is no longer correct to aver that "politics stops at the water's edge." Historians have a better grasp of the cultural roots of foreign affairs. They have gone part, but not all, of the way toward seeing Indians, Mexicans, and Central Americans as active participants in events rather than as wretched victims or enemies of assertive Yankees. Scholars have also taken some steps in the direction of placing U.S. expansion in the context of an increasingly interdependent world system. A generation from now we can expect that the outline of that system will appear more clearly in the scholarship.


NOTES
1.
Charles Maier, "Marking Time: The Historiography of International Relations", in Michael Kammen, ed., The Past Before Us: Contemporary Historical Writing in the United States ( Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1980). See also "Symposium: Responses to Charles Maier, Marking Time: The Historiography of International Relations", Diplomatic History 5 ( Fall 1981): 354-82.
2.
Ralph Levering, "The Importance of the History of American Foreign Relations", OAH Newsletter, May 1984, p. 20.
3.
Samuel Flagg Bemis and Grace Gardner Griffin, Guide to the Diplomatic History of the United States, 1775-1921 ( Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1935); Richard Dean Burns and The Society for Historians of American Foreign Relations, eds.,

-229-

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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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