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Gunfighters, Highwaymen, and Vigilantes: Violence on the Frontier

4.5 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0520060265
ISBN-10: 0520060261
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Editorial Reviews

From the Inside Flap

"What happened at Bodie and other frontier towns is the subject of Roger D. McGrath's Violence on the Frontier, and it is replete with surprises. McGrath takes a sharp look at western violence by comparing community life during the heyday of two California mining camps, Bodie and Aurora. . . .Few if any incidents escaped his keen eye, and he writes with relish about what he found."
--Martin Ridge, California Magazine
 
"Why is America so violent? When that question is raised, the old chestnut of frontier heritage is inevitably pulled from the fire. . . .McGrath's valuable book suggests that violence in modern America is rooted less in the conquest of the frontier than in the formation of the modern city. . . . His research produces evidence of a powerful set of shared values that rigorously limited violence to consenting adults."
--William Broyles, Jr., New York Times
 
"This handsomely produced book provides a valuable test case in the study of frontier violence and will provide food for thought for many years to come."
--Larry D. Ball, Western Historical Quarterly
 
"This is one of the best of a small but growing number of frontier community studies and will offer inspiration and model to other scholars. Its close examination of frontier mining towns yields valuable insights into lives of the men and women who lived--and died--in them. Its concrete assessment of nature of violence and lawlessness in frontier settings not only corrects some past generalizations about frontier violence but also gives historians very useful data to compare with other frontier communities."
--John Clendenin Townsend, Magill's Literary Annual
 

About the Author

Roger D. McGrath was a U.S. Marine and history professor at UCLA. He currently is at California State University-Northridge.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: University of California Press (March 23, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0520060261
  • ISBN-13: 978-0520060265
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #330,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book opened my eyes to what life on the western frontier was really like. Forget current media fictionalizations, the frontier was not a shooting gallery. No handsome stranger rides into to town to save the cowering inhabitants from evil. The crooks and crooked politics are all there, just like they are today. The sheriff was not always the stalwart defender of the law, in fact he sometimes had business interests to protect.
McGrath offers a carefully documented narrative of the day to day goings on during the gold rush. The data is from public records and the fill-in is from newspaper archives. A detailed yet readable account of frontier life. Far better than any cowboy novel, this is the real west.
Steve Hurst
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Format: Paperback
I found the title of this book to be a bit misleading, as Roger McGrath's research in the book involves violence commited by much more than just gunfighters, highwaymen and vigilantes. I was also surprised to find the research to be concentrated soley on two boom towns on the Nevada/California border. But the research is so deep and so thorough, you can come away with a very good idea of what kind of violence was present in that time and place. McGrath then uses that research to compare the violence found in an 1800's frontier town with the violence we encounter in cities of our present time. These comparisons, which he brings out at the very end of the book, were very enlightening and thought provoking, and made the book well worth my time to read.
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Format: Paperback
Just a few days ago, I received my latest copy of THE NEW AMERICAN magazine and found an excellent article in it by Roger D. McGrath titled, "MAKING OUR SCHOOLS SAFE." This edition of the fine current events periodical was inspired by the terrible Virginia Tech campus shooting. McGrath wrote, "For several decades now, I have said that every 'gun control' law should be titled a 'Criminal Empowerment Act,' . . . Reality demonstrates that it is all well and good that sheep pass laws requiring vegetarianism, but until the wolves circling the flock agree, those laws don't mean a thing." His article made me realize how remiss I have been in failing to write, until now, a review for his outstanding book GUNFIGHTERS, HIGHWAYMEN & VIGILANTES.

McGrath's publication was used as the textbook for a very popular course he taught on American West history at the University of California, Los Angeles, while I was a full-time employee on that campus. I purchased my copy at the ASUCLA Student's Store in 1990, and I have gone back to reread sections from it numerous times over the years as GUNFIGHTERS, HIGHWAYMEN & VIGILANTES examines my favorite American epoch and it raises scholarly historical research to an absolute art form! Sifting through innumerable newspapers, as well as court records, jail registers, and journal entries from that time, McGrath fashions a nearly comprehensive account of the violent goings-on in the Nineteenth Century California mining camps of Aurora and Bodie. (In its time, Bodie was considered to be perhaps the wildest of all Wild West towns.
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Format: Paperback
This book opened my eyes to how far off Hollywood and the Myths of the 'Old West' are just not correct. At the end the author compares the safety of Aurora and Bodie compared to modern day Chicago. (And yes these two violent towns were safer for law abiding citizens). Few books have changed my perception of history more than this book has.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The results of thorough research presented in a manner enjoyable for almost everyone is how I would describe this book. The question is how violent was the frontier. McGrath's answer seems to be very, but not in the way people, might think. The towns studied here were notoriously violent but as McGrath shows, the violence was limited to particular situations. Shootouts in the saloon, for example, were frequent but women and children could walk the streets safely.

Roger McGrath is one of a dying breed of historians who care about facts and research. Get this book if you have any interest in either the old west or the history of violence in America.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book is brand new - for three bucks! Roger McGrath is a well-known western historian, and although I hadn't heard of most of the incidents in this book, they are still very intesting to read about. I would recommend this seller to anyone.
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