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Into the West: The Story of Its People by…

Into the West: The Story of Its People

by Walter Nugent

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679454799, Hardcover)

When he was a teenager, growing up in New York, Walter Nugent's only knowledge of the West came through Dragnet and B-movies, watching "cops and villains speed along streets lined with palm trees." For many in the East, the Midwest, and the South, the Great West has remained terra incognita, a diverse, dynamic region with mythic origins and enormous influence over our culture and economics. With the benefit of an outsider's eyes, Nugent has constructed "a new, unified history of the people of the West from earliest times to the present," answering why people came west and why, for the most part, they stayed.

Because Nugent has conceived a "social-demographic history ... a history of the people, not of their politics or other doings," he warns readers not to look for chapter breaks at 1776, 1865, or 1945--economic booms and depressions played a bigger role in the West than politicians and generals, it seems. Likewise, geography is contested, receiving knowing treatment as Nugent digs into whether the West is the "Plains to the Pacific, or just Dodge City to the Sierras." Nugent successfully pursues broad themes, such as the region's rapid urbanization and its central role in the baby boom and the death of homesteading. But Into the West shows equal affection for the more personal stories, such as the extended conflict between Anglos and braceros in the Great Plains and the nascent rise of turn-of-the-century tourism (the Rock Island Railroad promised in 1903 that "a month in California will do you more good than all the medicine in Christendom"). --Paul Hughes

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:19 -0400)

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