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The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West Paperback – January 30, 1987

ISBN-13: 978-0393304978 ISBN-10: 0393304973 Edition: Reprint
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The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West + The American West: A New Interpretive History (The Lamar Series in Western History) + The American West: A Concise History
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The popular image of Western history is our own creation myth, writes the author, who teaches history at the University of Colorado. Frederick Jackson Turner's ethnocentric, nationalistic frontier is passe; modern historians have deemphasized the frontier, focusing on economics and the diversity of Western settlers. Limerick shows us a competitive, contentious West, an important meeting ground for Indians, Latin-Americans, Anglo- and Afro- Americans and Asians. On the subject of Western violence, she notes that the frontier environment is not a proper explanation for incidents involving Hispanics, Chinese, Japanese, blacks, Mormons, strikers and radicals. Limerick examines the key role of federal money in Western economya major issue of continuity in the area's history; she discusses "borderland" (Hispanic) history and immigration restrictions. History buffs will appreciate this dynamic perspective on the real, as opposed to fantasy, West. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

The purpose of this volume, never precisely defined, appears to be twofold: to debunk the popular myths and misperceptions surrounding the settlement of the American West; and refute the theory that western history was a period marked by the opening and closing of a frontier. The author argues for thinking of the West as "a placeas many complicated environments," one that is a "preeminent case study in conquest and its consequences." However, she does not successfully integrate the various topics she tackles. The point of her work becomes increasingly vague as she jumps from topic to topic, her style ranging from intellectual and scholarly to casual and journalistic. Not recommended. Frank Schroth, Technology Training Assocs., Cambridge, Mass.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (January 30, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393304973
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393304978
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #212,799 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 52 people found the following review helpful By C. Corrick on May 24, 2002
Format: Paperback
In The Legacy of Conquest, Patricia Nelson Limerick puts forth her thesis that the conquest of the Trans-Mississippi West is an ongoing economically driven process. Focusing on the West as a physical place rather than a mythic ideal, the author demonstrates how the frontier never closed and that the conquest continues to this day. The book looks at the conquerors of the West and the obstacles they face from Native peoples, westward expansion, immigration, and government interference or the lack thereof. Those coming west did not come with the idea of destroying the land or the Indians, but with the hope of economic improvement and opportunity.
Few people coming west concerned themselves with the Native Americans whose land they began to occupy. Farmers, ranchers, and miners seeking wealth worried more about their own survival than the survival of Indians. Many pioneers portrayed themselves as victims when their dreams of wealth came face to face with the reality of grasshopper plagues, overgrazed ranges, and barren mines. This self-victimization continues to this day with these same groups decrying government waste while asking for subsidies. However, some who came to the west did become true victims.
Some of those who came west in an attempt to make their fortune mining ended up working in the mines of large companies or working other low paying jobs. Those who worked in the mines put themselves in grave danger everyday. With no safety regulations and labor laws that blamed workers for their injuries, mining was one of the deadliest occupations. Attempts to unionize Mineworkers led to mine owners using violence and murder to dissuade union membership. Many who worked the mines immigrated from England and Ireland.
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21 of 26 people found the following review helpful By kellymullins@geedev.com on April 19, 1999
Format: Paperback
Limerick's work here is outstanding. Here ability to tie in the violence of the western expansion to our current myths and current behavior is terrific. Moreover, in addition to be an eye-opening and informative work, it is an enjoyable read as well. A must have for anyone who has an interest in Western history, or who simply wants to learn more about US history.
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13 of 16 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 22, 2000
Format: Paperback
Anyone who still believes with Frederick Jackson Turner that the West somehow "closed" in 1898 should read this book. Limerick advances the thesis that the same boom-bust cycles and the same struggles over land, water, and mineral rights that characterized the "Wild West" are continuing to this day. She writes in an engaging style that combines well-told narrative with penetrating analysis.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Thomas W. Robinson on February 9, 2013
Format: Paperback
Written as part of the "New Western History," Limerick attempts to not only revitalize Western history and prove its worth in the greater scheme of American history, but also to dispel the myth of the frontier that she was in some ways personified by Frederick Jackson Turner's "Frontier Thesis." Arguing against Jackson, Limerick writes that the West was a place of conquest, rather than frontier, and further states that the continuity of the region's past has continued into the present. The latter also goes against Turner's thesis because he felt the closing of the frontier in 1890 was essentially the end of the West. Although he wrote during this time, it does not seem he would have argued for a continued continuity.
The book is broken into two parts. The first part attempts to dispel the myths and legends of the "Old West" that Limerick feels have been perpetuated not only by popular histories and Hollywood, but also some academic historians. Far from being the rugged individualists that Hollywood or Frederick Jackson Turner would have you believe, Limerick argues that Westerners relied heavily on the federal government, needing assistance in dealing with Indians, distributing land, and assisting the railroads. Furthermore, Limerick shows that the ideal of the West as the land of golden opportunity is more myth than reality, as the West was actually a place of continuous cycles of boom and bust.
The second part of the book discusses groups that Limerick deems "unconquered," those who have largely been ignored in histories of the West. Going against the stereotype of western Indians, Limerick shows that Indians of the West were persistent in attempts to keep their culture.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daniel A. French on March 1, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In The Legacy of Conquest, Patricia Nelson Limerick accomplishes three feats not usually accomplished by historians. With some trepidation and the risk of offending others in the field, she writes a readable and entertaining narrative. This is however, not a prerequisite of good academic history, so possibly her second accomplishment is more worthy, that with her thesis she debunks a cornerstone in American history which is as over-mentioned as Tocqueville, she lays Frederick Jackson Turner's Frontier Thesis to waste. To this, legions of young upstarts have no doubt said "thank you." While this daring move may be enough to celebrate on its own, it is her third feat that is most worthy. Limerick views western history with continuity--as an ongoing process, unfettered by Turner's geographic and periodized borders, and demonstrates the usefulness of looking at the West for what it has always been, a historical pallet.

My use of the word pallet may be a bit clumsy, but with deference to Richard White, I am trying to avoid using his term "Middle Ground," which in itself is overused--pallet may be more apt in the case of Legacy. The reason for this is that Limerick correctly describes the West as a great mixing ground of cultures, motives, and nature that has continually been redefined. No "closed" sign hung on the West side of the Mississippi after Turner wrote in 1893, quite the contrary. As long as there is profit in "them thar hills," the West lived, and lives on--this statement in itself may be a sufficient quick summary of Limerick's work.

Starting her work dispelling the myth of Westerners as innocent victims, the real story of the West cannot be neatly divided into good guys and bad guys.
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