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The Oxford History of the American West [Paperback]

Clyde A. Milner , Carol A. O'Connor , Martha A. Sandweiss
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 19, 1996 0195112121 978-0195112122 Reprint
When we think of the American West, we tend to conjure up images that are known the world over: bearded forty-niners leading pack mules up a mountain trail, the Oklahoma land stampede, Custer's Last Stand, and especially the range-riding, quick-shooting cowboy. But these familiar images are only a small part of western history. From the arrival of the Navajos in the Southwest more than seven hundred years ago, to the first Spanish settlements in New Mexico in the late sixteenth century, to the large Mormon migration to the Great Salt Lake, to the tourists flocking to the neon landscape of modern Las Vegas, the complex story of the West stretches across centuries, embracing many voices and contrasting cultures. The West is in fact as varied as America itself. Indeed, to enlarge on Wallace Stegner's singular phrase, the West is America, only more so.
Lavishly illustrated and based on the finest scholarship, The Oxford History of the American West is the first comprehensive study to do full justice to the rich complexity of this region. It brings together the work of twenty-eight leading western historians who explore this area from a dazzling number of perspectives. They provide insightful portraits of the West as a distinctive place of varied peoples--native and non-native, European and Asian, African and Latino--and of varied terrain--from the timbered Pacific Northwest to the Dakota Badlands, and from the fires of Kilauea to the ice cliffs of Glacier Bay, Alaska. They describe the great wealth generated by a series of spectacular bonanzas, such as gold at Sutter's Mill, copper in Butte, Montana, and oil on Alaska's north shore; illuminate the role of the West in the national and global economy; and consider the environmental challenges created by replacing buffalo with cattle or by designating national parks and military test sites. The book also examines the social forces behind the violence of the West, the great political movements that affected the region (most notably, the Populist Party), and the importance of families in settling the West (for instance, tracing one family's westward migration over 150 years). The authors provide important insights about many longstanding controversies, and they offer not only the fruits of the latest thinking about the West, but also a vivid sense of how people actually lived. For instance, we read of pioneers who grated green corn to make pudding they flavored with berries and grasshoppers, and who ate the culms (the soft inner linings of the stalks) like asparagus. Finally, each chapter concludes with an extensive annotated bibliography, offering a full review of related material, and there is a comprehensive index to guide readers to topcis of special interest.
Ranging from a thoughtful analysis of John Ford's classic My Darling Clementine, and a survey of Western art and literature (including figures as diverse as Francis Parkman, Frederic Remington, Willa Cather, Georgia O'Keeffe, and N. Scott Momaday) to a careful consideration of recent events, such as the Los Angeles riots of 1992 and a revisionist look at cattle grandee Granville Stuart (once Montana's most revered pioneer), this lively, authoritative volume continually challenges the familiar as it broadens the reader's understanding of a vast and varied region.

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Editorial Reviews Review

The storybook version of the American West, brought to us by Hollywood and TV, assumes a conflict of two opposing forces: cowboys against Indians, say, or cattle barons against small farmers. The real history of the West involves the conflict--but also the union--of many forces and peoples. This was true during the Spanish colonization of New Mexico, the Mormon arrival in Utah, and, after World War II, the transformation of California from backwater into cutting-edge region. The cycle persists today, as the West continues to grow in population and political influence. In The Oxford History of the American West 28 professional historians gather to analyze the West's history; the result of their work is an important reference.

From School Library Journal

YA-This fascinating title, composed of 23 essays by college professors, offers much to scholars/researchers. Beginning with prehistory and moving along the time line to today, the book deals with not only the expected topics of exploration, settlement, Indian displacement, cowboys and badmen, but also with harder-to-find topics such as the role of religion and early agricultural practices. The editors then bridge frontier history and post-1890 history with discussions of resource extraction, railroads, growth of cities, political movements, and the role of the federal government. The last section treats various contemporary outgrowths of the western myth (Hollywood, western art and literature, recent ethnic and racial unrest). As might be expected in a book that is almost as big as the land it's about, the quality of the essays varies. A few seem to have been run up by a committee and are fragmentary and confusing; others condense too much, but most are organized, lucid, and lively. While the book will be most useful as a research tool, some readers will be drawn by the generally good writing into wanting to know more about a given aspect of the West. A fine single source for research on the historical and contemporary West as myth, as an attitude, as a place, and as a culture. The essays are enhanced by many reproductions and some full-color art plates.
Judy McAloon, Potomac Library, Prince William County, VA
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 904 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (September 19, 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195112121
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195112122
  • Product Dimensions: 9.7 x 7.5 x 1.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,612 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book has been a trusted overview source for my own research. The work consists of some twenty-four well written chapters prepared by leading professional historians, notably including Richard Maxwell Brown and Anne M. Butler. One need not agree with all the political and cultural perspectives presented here to appreciate the breadth and quality of the scholarship.

The one and only drawback is the use of bibliographic notes at the end of each chapter in lieu of a consolidated bibliography. That said, the chronologies, maps, tables and illustrations supplementing the text make this book a real bargain for anyone fascinated by the American West.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Has Everything! September 25, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great reference book for high school/college educators who teach, or are a student of the American West.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious Read But Worth the Effort August 15, 2012
By JayTee
This was monster to plow through - 800+ pages. It has been sitting on my shelf for a number of years and finally committed to reading it. The book has a different format than a traditional history book. It is a collection of about 30 essays written by scholars on a variety of topics, for example, "Native Peoples and Native Histories", "Animals and Enterprise", "The Federal Presence." Each gives an informative narrative on the subject but also presents a point of view by the essayist. The book is perhaps less a history than a set of perspectives on the American West.

I enjoyed gaining a new look on old themes. I especially liked the essay on "Violence" by Richard Maxwell Brown. He discusses the set of beliefs that oriented westerners to violence including the doctrine of no duty to retreat, the homestead ethic, and vigilantism. He summarizes this around the Western Civil War of Incorporation, a series of skirmishes, gunfights, and massacres involving ranchers, homesteaders, labor unions, railroads, and other groups over the period of 1850-1919, that established the order of power in the untamed West.

The book closes with a fascinating essay "Comparing Wests and Frontiers" by Walter Nugent. He looks at the settlement of 18th and 19th century frontiers in Canada, South Africa, Australia, among others.

This book is a serious read but worth the effort!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Reference Material May 5, 2014
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a collective compilation of writings pertaining to the history of the American west. It is a well written reference material.
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