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The American West by Patrick N. Allitt

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 12, 2022 at 6:05 PM

The American West by Patrick N. Allitt

This Great Courses text on The American West remembers something many people forget when thinking about the past. The American West did not star with cowboys herding cattle in the mid 19th century. It began with the original British colonies as they moved inland from the coast and Allitt focuses on this moving boundary in the first three-quarters of his book. He charts wars, politics, changes in the economy and technology, discoveries like gold, the challenges of desert, plain and wilderness, the quest for religious freedom, and of course, the impact on the people already inhabiting those lands.

 

That was actually more of the history than I wanted. Anyone conversant with American history is already familiar with most of what Allitt talks about in this first section. Where the book really shines is when the author focuses thematically on issues like homesteading, or cattle ranching, or mining, or women, or the western myths that shape and remain in our society. It was this last idea that interested me the most and I would have been glad to see many more chapters devoted to it. Those issues aside, this book remains a great introduction to an important aspect of the history of America.

 

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