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The West Books

Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (1967)

Nash traces American beliefs about nature and wilderness from their European and Biblically-based beginnings through the mid-twentieth century. The book is strongest in tracing the role of romanticism and transcendentalism in pushing American attitudes toward the conservationism of the twentieth century. Interesting and well written, the book offers readers a grand overview of an important element within American ideology.

Frederick Jackson Turner, The Significance of the Frontier in American History (1893)

Historians have challenged much of what Turner advanced in 1890. His "composite nationality" ignores important and persisting sources of division in American society; the democracy he saw advancing across the West ignores the very undemocratic power asserted by railroads, speculators, and banks. But more than a hundred years later Turner's thesis is still debated.

David Igler, Industrial Cowboys: Miller & Lux and the Transformation of the Far West, 1850-1920 (2001)

Igler uses the rags-to-riches rise of two immigrant butchers to explore a series of issues including California's water and land politics and the impact of population and economic growth on the state's environment. The book offers both a compelling narrative and insightful analysis.

Charles Postel, The Populist Vision (2007)

This award-winning book offers a fresh take on the farmers' movement of the late nineteenth century. Differing from other studies that have tended to treat Populists as either unrealistically utopian or hopelessly nostalgic, Postel's book suggests that the Populists offered a realistic and modern approach to politics and government. The book is not a quick read, but those interested in the Populists, or what they might offer to contemporary social reform movements, will find this useful.

Richard White, "It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own": A New History of the American West (1991)

White travels from the European explorers of the sixteenth century to the last decades of the twentieth in this sweeping exploration of the West. In analyzing the nineteenth-century American West, White argues that "the federal government shaped the West" and the West itself served as the kindergarten of the American state."_CITATION53_

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