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Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930s Paperback – September 30, 2004

ISBN-13: 978-0195174885 ISBN-10: 0195174887 Edition: 25th anniversary
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Editorial Reviews


"An exciting, provocative, and stimulating study.... It has much to say to historians, environmentalists, and public policy makers."--American Historical Review

"A gracefully written and fascinating book."--History

About the Author

Donald Worster is Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas and the author of A River Running West: The Life of John Wesley Powell.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 25th anniversary edition (September 30, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195174887
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195174885
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #208,253 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Mike Smith on October 16, 2007
Format: Paperback
Looking at the cover, this book seems as if it's going to be something really academic--and it is scholarly and knowledgeable--but it's never academic in the bad sense, in the boring sense.

I read this right after reading Timothy Egan's "The Worst Hard Time," and found this book's descriptions of the devastation caused by the 1930s Dust Bowl to be much more vivid and gripping, this book's facts to be much quirkier and more interesting, and this book's scope to feel much broader and more widely felt. With "The Worst Hard Time," I got the idea that the whole thing really only affected a handful of counties, which I knew was wrong, but with this book there was no denying just how epic the whole ordeal was.

I loved this book (despite its author's amusing tendency to quote Marx) and consider it to be perhaps the very best book I've read about the Dust Bowl--and I've read a few of them. You should read it, for sure.
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29 of 34 people found the following review helpful By Jerald R Lovell on July 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
As most persons are aware, these are times of climatic change, with the West becoming warmer and drier. These changes are episodic, but mankind's response to them is not so predictable. Professor Worster's excellent coverage of the Dust Bowl, one of the greatest agricultural and ecological calamities in history, shows that, with a little foresight and honest recognition of the limitations of technology, much of the harm caused by shifting climate can be prevented. In that respect, it is a hopeful text.
Professor Worster, however, views history from a Marxist standpoint, a trait that colors some of his conclusions. While I agree with him that land is frequently viewed by the shortsighted as a commodity to be used and discarded, I feel that the lessons of the Dust Bowl have resulted in safer, drought-resistant patterns of crop farming. However, as Worster adroitly points out, the shifting in agricultural practices in the Southern plains is accompanied by a wasteful use of available underground water, raising a peril of the Dust Bowl's return. So have we really learned anything? Time will tell, and not very long from now.
So far as Professor Worster addresses the socio-economic causes of the reckless destruction of the short-grass prairie ecosystem for quick profit, his discussion is masterful His organization of topics and chronology is excellent, and the reader will not soon forget the horror of living with the dust. The photos of dust storms and their effect are almost nightmarish.
Regardless of one's irritation at the myopia of those who try to farm mrginal land, his is a sympathetic portrait as well, waxing almost lyrical in his discussions of the effects of crop failures on the local populace.
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25 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Randy Miller on February 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
Our family has farmed in the panhandle of Oklahoma for almost 100 years. We still farm there, and in Texhoma (North Texas) both in the center of the dust bowl. My mother grew up there and was always telling us how severe it was and we (as her children) didn't really believe that it could be as bad as she said. However, since that time, we have reviewed the book, and seen a video of actual motion pictures of that period, - in the very area that was the subject of the book. Everything we have seen, and heard from all of our relatives who lived there at this time appear to be in total agreement with the book.
We still farm there and it seems that the cyclical weathern pattern could be developing for a reoccurance of the same pattern, especially since the water table used for irrigation (so important in that part of the U.S., is decreasing yearly. Randy Miller
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Z. Weir on April 16, 2002
Format: Paperback
In the book "Dust Bowl: The Southern Plains in the 1930's," Worster examines the reasons for and the ideological background behind the Dust Bowl of the 1930's. The author focuses his discussion around the devastation of the Southern Plains, as he presents his argument about the impact of American culture on both the ecological destruction of the land and the desolation of the people who depended on the land for their livelihood. The body of the work focuses on the multifaceted and sometimes diametrically opposed economic and ethical/ecological interests of the country during the Dust Bowl, which Worster brings into an examination of the pervasive capitalist mentality of early 20th century American culture. The author believes the root of Americans' misuse and destruction of the Southern Plains serves as just another example of irresponsibility in the means to obtain the end desire of capitalistic pursuits.
Donald Worster argues that a close link existed between the Dust Bowl and the capitalist mentality of American society during the early 20th century, as American zeal for wealth and expansion wrought devastating affects on both the land and its people.
In his treatise of the Dust Bowl, Worster focuses on the mindset of American culture both before and during the 1930's. Worster believes that before the Dust Bowl and the years immediately preceding it, the area of the Southern Plains enjoyed relative ecological stability as neither the Indians, nor the primary white farmers following them viewed their environment and land as expendable resources or commodities. However, as the Jeffersonian ideals of agrarian harmony with nature gave way to the destructive and selfish capitalist ideology, the Southern Plains became the victim of economic ambition.
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