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Empires, Nations, and Families: A History of the North American West, 1800-1860 (History of the American West) Hardcover – July 1, 2011

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Product Details

  • Series: History of the American West
  • Hardcover: 648 pages
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press; 1st edition (July 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803224052
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803224056
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #362,685 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"Hyde weaves her stories together to create a solid and provocative argument in Empires, Nations, and Families, a book that is not only well researched and presented but instantly absorbing."—Adrienne Caughfield, Journal of American History
(Adrienne Caughfield Journal of American History)

"Students of the Great Plains and the nineteenth-century West in general, at whatever level, will be well rewarded by a reading of Anne Hyde's fine book."—Walter Nugent, Great Plains Quarterly
(Walter Nugent Great Plains Quarterly)

 "Hyde's volume is a superb telling of a tale familiar to students of the American West but presented in a new, enlivening manner that will make readers remember why they love frontier American history so very much."—Patricia Ann Owens, The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
(Patricia Ann Owens The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society)

“The nuanced and complex narrative contextualizes the experiences of individuals, families, and communities. . . . Taking a unique approach that emphasizes the importance of family networks and integrating a newer generation of scholarship to explain the social and cultural dynamics of the West, Hyde has produced a substantial and highly original interpretation of the period [1800–61]. . . . An excellent work and a major contribution to the historiography of the North American West.”—John Husmann, South Dakota History
(John Husman South Dakota History 2013-06-21)

“The strength of [Hyde’s] work lies in her ability to assemble and integrate a vast amount of secondary work into a thematic framework that emphasizes the important role kinship structures played in shaping the economic and social structures of the West prior to 1860.”—James E. Sherow, Kansas History

(James E. Sherow Kansas History 2013-06-20)

“This is an important and useful book, and it should find a large readership.”—Katrine Barber, Oregon Historical Quarterly
(Katrine Barber Oregon Historical Quarte)

About the Author

Anne F. Hyde is a professor of history at Colorado College. She is the author of An American Vision: Far Western Landscape and National Culture and coauthor, with William Deverell, of The West in the History of the Nation.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Truffaut015 on December 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
The author draws the reader into the largely unknown, at least in a popular context, history of America west of the Mississippi, through a focus on individual lives. And through those lives she tells a compelling story of America as it might have been, a vibrant, multicultural society, racially and ethnically diverse, where mutual need forged collaboration and co-operation that new family ties re-inforced. Through examinations of the fur trade, from individual trading families to the markets in China and Europe, through insight into the emergence of a hybrid Californio identity in the northern province of the Mexico, or the multinational trading systems hinged around places like Bent's Fort on the Arkansas river, she conveys the dynamism of this complex region, and the tragedy, for the subsequent history of the United States, of its extirpation at the hands of the Anglo-American culture moving in inexorably from the East.

The content of this book represents history at its very best, rooted in primary documents and artifacts, imaginative and multi-disciplinary in its interpretations. The writing, though, is often circular, repetitive, and confusing, and thus any potential reader needs to be ready to tolerant. An experienced editor could have made an enormous difference, and won for this book the popular audience it so deserves. But I still urge everyone who knows only a little about the history of the west to read it: you will look at America in a very different light by the time you reach the last pages.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Paul Harvey on July 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A beautiful, humane, work of history based on deep research, and graced with a careful narrative that synthesizes a couple of generations of scholarship and tells its own story at the same time. The reader sees the big picture of the rise and fall of various empires in the West, along with the stories of individual families. The book won the Bancroft Prize in history, awarded to the best work of American history published in a given year -- well-deserved award.

Ignore the ridiculous assertions of the first reviewer, "R.F.W." This book deserves all the accolades it is receiving.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful By k on December 30, 2012
Format: Hardcover
The most important feature of this monograph is its persistent thesis that family was the key to success in the Far West during the first half of the nineteenth-century. Whether it was at Bent's Fort, pre-1846 California, the Rocky Mountain fur trade or St. Louis, commercial success -- even physical survival -- was nearly impossible for whites unless the explorer/trader/trapper/settler established a familial relationship with native peoples. Intermarriage, usually with several different women from various tribes or even sisters from the same tribe, created a web of obligation and blood relationships that allowed the white to become less foreign among the Indians. These relationships naturally produced numerous "half-breed" offspring who, with a foot in either world, were well-adapted to life in the Middle Ground where white and native populations traded.

The author follows several families, especially the Bent family, through the half-century to illustrate her thesis. The role of intermarriage in white-Indian relations has, of course, been well-documented and there is nothing new in the thesis itself. Still, this book sensitively explores how this worked and how, when it ceased to work, things quickly fell apart.

The book has drawbacks. It is decently written but since it hops from locate to locale and from family to family it can seem very disjointed. The book also is a little heavy-handed in its pro-Indian sentiment, a failing of virtually all scholarly literature on this topic for a generation now. To cite just one example, the Indian raids that made life a hell for harmless Mexican settlers in New Mexico -- men and women whose ancestors settled the land before certain tribes arrived at the same locale -- are mentioned but glossed over. On the other hand, every act of bad faith or incompetence on the part of the "Euro-Americans" is lovingly retailed. The historiography can only improve when this political correctness finally bleaches out.
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