An Appraisal of Walter Prescott Webb's THE GREAT PLAINS:
A Study in Institution and Environment, by Fred A.
Shannon. With comments by Walter Prescott Webb and
a panel discussion and commentary by Read Bain.
New York: Social Science Research Council, 1940.
This is the third of a series of critiques of research in the
social sciences sponsored by the Social Science Research Council
through its Committee on Appraisal, and contains 237 beauti-
fully printed pages, of which only the final twenty-three, the
scholarly and eloquent commentary by Read Bain, should have
been permitted to appear in print.
The Great Plains was selected by the Social Science Research
Council for special study in that, as stated in the foreword of
the critique, it was published in 1931, "has been very successful
in its field . . . was written in a very interesting style, and
was issued in an attractive format . . . was widely reviewed
and . . . well received. . . . Since 1931 two printings have
Houghton Mifflin Company brought out a trade edition in 1936
which again was widely reviewed. "The American Library Asso-
ciation listed it as one of the Fifty Notable Books of 1931; it
won second place in the Loubat award in 1933; it was twice
listed as an alternate by the Book-of-the-Month Club; it was
favorably reviewed, not only in the United States, but also in
France and England. It still enjoys a steady sale as text, treatise
and trade book."
Soon after it was published in 1931
the reviews in the journals of the learned societies
began to hail it as a landmark in historiography
special commendation was awarded Professor Webb
"for his industry, his insight . . . the literary skill
he has shown in displaying the results of his work." ...
By 1937, if not earlier, the literary critics had taken
notice, and it was declared that "From any point of
view this is unquestionably one of the most important
histories that have been published in this generation.
A work of striking originality and ingenuity . . . it
is the only new, enlarging, fructifying kind of history
since the rise of the social historians."
The Great Plains having proved itself through ten years' wear,
its re-appraisal should have suggested an inquiry as to the
basic reasons for its success. Making of a primary re-appraisal
was entrusted by the Social Science Research Council to Profes-
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 44, July 1940 - April, 1941. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth146052/. Accessed April 23, 2014.