The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 61, July 1957 - April, 1958 Page: 548
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
history. Most historians would be satisfied to accomplish this
much and to receive the critics' hearty "well done," but this
cannot be the case with Billington, for he set for himself, and
promised the reader, a much richer goal, which he failed to
The author states that he aimed at accomplishing two objec-
tives. The first is to give a thorough description of "the move-
ment of settlers into the Far West and the national or world
events which directly influenced their migration." Since the
author excused himself, however, from giving "a full account of
American territorial expansion and diplomacy in the 184o's or
. a comprehensive history of the causes and course of the
Mexican War," he seems to have entirely eliminated the latter
half of his first objective. Little notice is taken in the book of
national events or conditions which might have influenced the
"settlement process," and even less of world events.
Billington's second objective is "to advance evidence [presum-
ably new] pertaining to the generations-old conflict over the so-
called 'frontier hypothesis' " of Frederick Jackson Turner. Billing-
ton is an enlightened Turnerian; he tolerates the criticisms and
modifications of the old master, but does little more in this book
than reassert the dogma that the frontier environment was a major
influence on the development of American character and institu-
tions. No new thought or evidence is contributed to the "genera-
tions-old conflict"; in fact, the second objective seems to have been
shelved in the course of writing.
The story begins in the x82o's with the first incursions of
United States citizens on the Mexican borderlands in the territory
of Texas and continues with a description of the colorful Santa
Fe trade, the significance of which (Billington asserts but nowhere
proves) lies in its demonstration of the weakness of Mexico's hold
on its northern provinces. He makes no mention of the economic
significance or insignificance of the Santa Fe trade. The story then
leaps from the relatively flat land of the Southwest into the moun-
tains of the Northwest, to recount the lore of the Mountain Men,
the semi-savage trappers and traders for the early fur companies,
who relieved the country of its beavers and the beavers of their
pelts. Following the mountain episode is a sequence of good,
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 61, July 1957 - April, 1958, periodical, 1958; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101164/m1/656/: accessed October 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.