ROBERT A. CALVERT, Editor
The New Country: A Social History of the American Frontier, 1776--1890.
By Richard A. Bartlett. (New York: Oxford University Press, I974.
Pp. 487. Illustrations, bibliography, maps, index. $15-95.)
The Last West: 'A History of the Great Plains of North America. By Russell
McKee. (New York: Thomas Y. Crowell Company, 1974. PP- 312.
Illustrations, bibliography, maps, appendix, index. $8.95.)
In 1974 two books appeared which teachers and scholars of the West
must not ignore. One fills the long-felt need for an outstanding textbook
on western history, and the second, despite many shortcomings, presents a
fresh and significant interpretation of the Great Plains.
Richard Bartlett has written a splendid history of the frontier to 1890.
Although his book claims to be only a social history, it touches all aspects of
the frontier experience. First, Bartlett presents a concise but comprehensive
survey of the sweep of the frontier across the continent, an inexorable tide
which no man, group, or nation could stop. He gives much attention to
the displacement of the Indian and the disposal of the land by the federal
government. He provides a very clear, detailed description of the processes
of land survey and sales, and he recognizes the enormous influence which
the land laws have had in shaping American society. The second section of
the book is a major, and refreshingly new, contribution. He examines with
much skill the many ethnic groups which made up the advancing frontier
and describes their unique roles and influences on western life. Whatever
the reader's sex, race, or ethnic background, he is likely to find his group
represented here. This is cultural pluralism at its best. A third section is an
unusually able study of agriculture on the various frontiers. Here, as in
other parts of the book, Bartlett supplies his reader with helpful explana-
tions of techniques and terms which too many authors assume that every
reader knows. Wisely Bartlett recognizes that most readers are not familiar
with the actual process of building a sod-house, of turning a furrow of
prairie sod, or of even handling an axe. Such may sound elementary, but
Bartlett makes his descriptions intensely interesting.
Critically important to any western history text today is an examination
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 78, July 1974 - April, 1975. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117149/. Accessed July 13, 2014.