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Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West Reprint Edition

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0195086713
ISBN-10: 0195086716
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Editorial Reviews


"A thoughtful, sensible collection....Worster reminds us that unlimited freedom and power are dangerous goals; both must be limited if the West's delicately balanced ecology is to endure."--Publishers Weekly

"Donald Worster is the dean of American environmental historians and one of our leading interpreters of the American West. He writes with the passion of a native son and offers perspectives that are as profound as they are provocative on the major environmental questions that have shaped the region's past and will define its future. Under Western Skies is a major contribution by a major scholar."--William Cronon, Yale University

"Donald Worster's honesty, critical intelligence, and talent for writing will prove to be three of the American West's most valuable resources in the late twentieth century. If Americans read this book and take it seriously, our prospects for living wisely and responsibly in this region will instantly brighten."--Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest

"Donald Worster is a brilliant social historian. Under Western Skies is insightful, incisive, useful, and necessary. And a terrific read--vivid and compelling."--William Kittredge

"Worster writes clearly and with passion....He provides food for thought about the West's past and future."--Gateway Heritage

"No one is a more powerful spokesman for the New Western History than Donald Worster, and no western historian is a better storyteller. He writes with passion and eloquence, with deep concern for the future of the region as well as its past. Readers will find these essays thoughtful, stimulating, and contentious."--Great Plains Quarterly

"A probing set of essays of particular interest to graduate students because Worster poses research questions and describes patterns of previously published research. These essays never fail to meet Worster's previously established high standards for research and writing."--Barbara Handy-Marchello, University of North Dakota

"It's a case of man and mountain matching one another: Donald Worster is one of the finest American historians of his generation, and John Wesley Powell one of the most impressive Americans of his time. This book is very readable, very thorough, and very welcome."--Larry McMurtry, author of LONESOME DOVE, CRAZY HORSE, and ROADS

About the Author

Donald Worster is Hall Distinguished Professor of American History at the University of Kansas. He is the author of Dust Bowl, Rivers of Empire, and other works of history.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; Reprint edition (January 20, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195086716
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195086713
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 0.6 x 5.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #539,929 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By R. M. Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 8, 2016
Format: Hardcover
Donald Worster, a professor at the University of Kansas, is one of the leading historians of the American West. UNDER WESTERN SKIES collects eleven essays by Worster, written between 1982 and 1991, that reflect his theory that all history, to some degree, is "environmental history" -- i.e., the story of people interacting with nature.

To my mind, three of the essays stand out. The first is "Hydraulic Society in California". One of Worster's theses is that what most marks the history of the American West is the scarcity of water. Some ancient peoples -- for example, those who settled the valleys of the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Nile -- faced the same issue, and they developed highly hierarchical, authoritarian societies to deal with it. Worster reviews the evolution of "hydraulic society" in California, and concludes that in the American West there "has emerged the most elaborate hydraulic system in world history, overshadowing even the grandiose works of the Sassanians and the Pharaohs."

The second particularly notable essay is "The Black Hills: Sacred or Profane?", which deals with the claims of the Lakota Sioux to the Black Hills (something that was a little more topical in 1992, when the book came out). It is a remarkably wide-ranging consideration of the historical, legal, and moral arguments for and against the position of the Lakota. Among other things, Worster points out that around 1870, just before the coming of the whites, the Lakota "possessed" the Black Hills only because they had only recently pushed out the Crow, the Cheyenne, the Kiowa, the Arapaho, and the Mandans.
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Format: Paperback
A compelling look at the attitudes we bring, as Westerners, to the treatment of land, history and people. Worster challenges us "to look, as it were, through the eyes of the rest of nature," 'to try to examine human behavior from a nonhuman perspective." I valued his essays as I read them a decade ago, and find them compelling still.
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