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

Book Reviews

in reaction to the destructive power of strip mining): "I fear for the
Great Plains because many people think they are boring. . . . Persuad-
ing someone not to destroy a place that seems as unvaried as a TV test
pattern is a challenge" (pp. 91-92). Would that many of us who live on
the plains could see them as clearly as does Frazier.
Center for Great Plains Studies, JAMES Hov
Emporia State Unzverszty
British Gentlemen zn the Wild West: The Era of the Intensely English Cowboy.
By Lawrence M. Woods. (New York: The Free Press, 1989.
Pp. vii+ 245. Acknowledgments, introduction, illustrations, appen-
dix, notes, bibliography, index. $19.95.)
This book, which carries endorsements from a United States senator
and a former governor of Wyoming, testifies to the enduring American
fascination with British aristocrats and their antics. At a time when so-
cial historians are rewriting history "from the bottom up," Lawrence
Woods provides an entertaining series of portraits of an elite of British
gentlemen-entrepreneurs who sought to make their fortunes in the
western cattle business.
Woods's idea of a gentleman is not unlike Justice Potter Stewart's
view of pornography: "I don't know how to define it but I know it when
I see it." His description of gentlemen as an "undefinable breed" (p. 30)
certainly is apt, though it leaves the reader to assume that the author
and his subjects would agree on what constitutes "proper" gentlemanly
The strongest sections of the book deal with Wyoming, the author's
home state. The information on the cattle industry given elsewhere in
the book generally is available in the standard works on the subject.
The book tends to be descriptive and anecdotal rather than analytical.
This reviewer (a Briton, if not necessarily a gentleman) learned more
about family connections among the British nobility than about the im-
pact of English cowboys on the western cattle industry. Woods distin-
guishes nicely between English and Scottish styles of management and
investment, but is almost apologetic in discussing John Clay, a Scotsman
but, alas, not of noble birth.
Indians are peripheral to the story, and it is unfortunate that such a
small part of the book merits such heavy criticism, but the author's com-
ments cannot pass unnoticed. He describes the pre-cattle Great Plains
as "nearly without permanent inhabitants" (p. 15), and labels the sys-
tem of treating Indian tribes as if they were separate nations a "de-
lightful fiction" (p. 15). Confronted with the reality of Indian presence


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 94, July 1990 - April, 1991. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed May 4, 2016.

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