The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991

Southwestern Hzstorzcal Quarterly

Hzstorians of the Amerzcan Frontzer: A Bzo-Biblzographzcal Sourcebook.
Edited by John R. Wunder. (Westport, Conn: Greenwood Press,
1988. Pp. xiii+814. Preface, bibliographies, index. $75.)
Many professional historians of western America in recent years have
fallen into despair over the dwindling interest in their field of study. At
conferences and in articles and books, they recite the strength of past
research and marvel at the broad concepts that once dazzled a genera-
tion of scholars. Where are the Turners, Webbs, and Boltons of today?
they ask. Will we ever see their likes again? In his edited work, Hlzstorzans
of the Amerzcan Frontzer: A Bzo-Bzblzographzcal Sourcebook, John R. Wunder,
a history professor at the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, provides an-
other look back at the stalwarts of the past. Wunder selected fifty-seven
historians (all deceased) who examined, narrated, and romanticized the
world that was western America. He included academics, journalists,
professional writers, biographers, and peripheral scholars. Four in his
selection were women, two Native Americans, and one Hispanic. The
essays are valuable in several ways. They not only reflect the roots, di-
mensions, and flowering of interest in the American frontier/West, but
also suggest that it is time to move on to broader canvasses, new research
techniques, and more sophisticated interpretations of the twice-told tale
of the nation's youth.
The essays are listed alphabetically and follow a standard format. In
each essay, the author presents a biographical sketch, identifies major
themes in the subject's writings, analyzes his/her publications, and in-
cludes a bibliography of articles, books, reviews, and earlier biographi-
cal studies. The value of each essay rests largely on the analysis. Here
the author surveys the historian's publications, relates them to the Tur-
ner thesis, and assesses their contributions to understanding western
history. Wunder selected historians who defined the frontier in various
ways-for example, space, time, or process-and whose works focused
on the formative years in major regions-the Midwest, South, South-
west, and Plains and Rockies. Pioneers in such subfields as agriculture,
borderlands, land policy, railroads, and Native Americans also are
included.
Although the essays vary in length and quality, students of histo-
riography will find the volume a gold mine. The studies of Abernethy,
Anderson, Billington, Cotterill, Malin, Shannon, and Turner particu-
larly are filled with interesting insights. Texas historians will be pleased
to see Binkley, Castefiada, Rister, and Webb on the list, but they will
raise an eyebrow at the comment (p. 534) that Rister may have been a
plagiarist.
An interesting profile emerges from these essays. A majority of the
group listed were born after 1870 and grew up during the passing of

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101214/. Accessed July 10, 2014.