The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994

Book Reviews

This book aims to be, the editor informs us, "an up-to-date comprehensive
analysis of western politics." It stems from a long tradition of such works, most
notably two earlier volumes by Frank H. Jonas. But unlike those volumes, which
proceeded in a state-by-state format, this one is more venturesome, employing a
comparative approach that addresses broad topics. The West here defined is the
Far West, from the Montana-New Mexico tier westward, including Alaska and
Hawaii. The tier of Great Plains states, from North Dakota to Texas, is thus not
addressed, even though many would consider these states more "western" than
are the two noncontiguous ones that are included.
Including Thomas, twenty-four authorities have contributed to this wide-rang-
ing volume, which is divided into four sections, each with several chapters. The
first addresses broad cultural, traditional, economic, and federal influences up-
on western politics; the second addresses political participation, from parties to
interest groups to minorities; the third addresses governmental institutions and
policy, from the branches of government to finance and education; and the
fourth addresses intergovernmental relations and public policy, including land,
natural resources, water, and environmental policies. Each chapter has end-
notes, and a select bibliography summarizes these works.
This large book can be used productively either as a narrative "read" or, more
likely, as a standard reference. It covers the gamut of political-governmental top-
ics quite well; and perhaps its strongest feature is its comparative pursuit of
broad and narrow topics across state lines. The tables are especially illuminating.
Conversely, the quality of the many individual chapters varies considerably,
which is predictable, and the range of sources cited is in many cases not large. In
all, this welcome book provides us with an invaluable source of information on
politics and government in the modern West.
Montana State University MICHAEL P. MALONE
Nature's Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. By William Cronon. (New York: W.
W. Norton and Co., 1991. Pp. xxiii+53o. Preface, prologue, tables, black-
and-white photographs, illustrations, maps, appendix, notes, bibliography,
index. $27.50.)
Nature's Metropolis: Chzcago and the Great West is a special book. Brilliantly con-
ceived and marvelously written, WilliamJ. Cronon's study, on one level, tells the
story of "the twin birth of city and hinterland," emphasizing that "Neither was
possible without the other" (p. 264). This is a story of linkages between natural
resources and markets, between technologies of mass production and
economies of global scale, between city and country. "We all live in the city,"
Cronon concludes. "We all live in the country. Both are second nature to us"(p.
385). It is a mark of Cronon's thoroughness and artistry that he makes his case
so compelling.
Cronon's starting point is two nineteenth-century thinkers, the American his-
torian Frederick Jackson Turner and the German writer Johann Heinrich von
Thunen. Turner, Cronon suggests, read history backwards when, in his famous


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed July 12, 2014.