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The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West [Paperback]

Patricia Nelson Limerick
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

January 30, 1987 0393304973 978-0393304978 Reprint

"Limerick is one of the most engaging historians writing today." --Richard White

The "settling" of the American West has been perceived throughout the world as a series of quaint, violent, and romantic adventures. But in fact, Patricia Nelson Limerick argues, the West has a history grounded primarily in economic reality; in hardheaded questions of profit, loss, competition, and consolidation. Here she interprets the stories and the characters in a new way: the trappers, traders, Indians, farmers, oilmen, cowboys, and sheriffs of the Old West "meant business" in more ways than one, and their descendents mean business today. 28 illustrations

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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.

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: 8.2 x 5.5 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #45,153 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
42 of 48 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars while a bit pessimistic it has its good points May 24, 2002
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 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A terrific read April 19, 1999
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 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The continuity of history April 22, 2000
By A Customer
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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Classic in Western History... 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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16 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Standard for New Western History June 29, 2000
Limerick's writing is vivid and engaging. The organization of her chapters is excellent. She critiques every aspect of the Turner thesis. Her book is/was the opening salvo in the New Western History that looks at the American West as a region instead of a process of frontiers. Limerick seeks to include everyone in her story of the American West, not just white, Anglo-American cowboys and Native Americans. A wonderful book. There is NEW stuff in this book, in that before her few historians of the west looked at women, Asians, Indians from their perspective, blacks, etc. A must read for any student of the American West!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The OTHER Side of The American West December 4, 2009
They say this is the Anti-Turner Frontier Thesis book...The author pretty much states her hypothesis (anti-hypothesis?) from the beginning...And the rest of the book is support material....She does a good job at supporting her theory...It's pretty much what the title says..Conquest, and to an extent, exploitation...Shady land speculators, shady lawyers, shady mine owners, railroad barons, etc. Also the mistreatment of the native Americans and the Chinese...The book is very well researched...I guess if you read BOTH "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" and this have both bases covered..I have to admit..I lean a little more toward the "conquest"/capitalism side of the argument after reading this book....
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars This is one of my all-time favorite books. What a marvelous writer
This is one of my all-time favorite books. What a marvelous writer! Patty tells a well documented "story" of the westward movement of Anglo people across the US that... Read more
Published 5 days ago by Robert T. Moline
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding history of the American West
There is a reason that Patricia Nelson Limerick is considered the doyen of (American) Western history. Her scholarship is impeccable, her writing a joy.
Published 11 months ago by NH
4.0 out of 5 stars Great writing and a nice change to conventional views of the "west"
Limerick is an intelligent writer with a good sense of humor. I'm a little tired of the "wild west" and the "pioneer spirit" stereotype views of the dry western... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Andrew M. Spear
1.0 out of 5 stars Tedious read
Limericak bludgeons her readers to death with her thesis. In her attempt to introduce complexity to the history of the American West she manages to completely flatten it.
Published 13 months ago by Ryan L. Gittins
2.0 out of 5 stars No, no, no
Terribly boring. I had to read this for my history class and it was torture. If you Like reading about peoples opinions and the american west well this is your book.
Published 14 months ago by Ramiro Marin
3.0 out of 5 stars Good and bad
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... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Thomas W. Robinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Social & Intellectual History
Limerick's text is quite simply the most important work in social and intellectual history of the American West of the past several decades. Read more
Published on November 3, 2006 by Richard A. Sax
2.0 out of 5 stars This book was hard to follow.
Limerick jumps from decade to decade in this book. I would not suggest this book to anyone. I had to just make myself finish it it was horrible.
Published on July 9, 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars disappointing
Considering that "Legacy of Conquest" is one of those touchstone must reads for anyone in "New Western History" this book was a disappointmememt. Read more
Published on April 26, 2002 by scott browne
1.0 out of 5 stars Grossly overrated
While making a big case of the worst, this book simply overlooks the masses of positive influences that came from Westward Expansion. Read more
Published on August 9, 2001 by Charles Miller
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