The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994 Page: 167
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The first two chapters deal with Frederick Jackson Turner and the frontier
thesis. These two chapters are perhaps the best in the book. Here Nash recreates
the social milieu that gave rise to Turner's thinking, and how Turner encapsulat-
ed common intellectual themes of his time and expressed these themes in a lan-
guage easily understood and used by his contemporaries. He explores Turner's
long-lived influence of Turner and presents a solid review of Turner's critics.
Moreover, Nash underscores the way in which civil rights, international affairs,
and environmentalism have helped shape the thinking of the social and environ-
mental historians who have come to challenge effectively Turner's America-as-a-
unique-occurrence, closed-space, Anglo bias.
The next chapter explores the West as a region. Nash uses Turner's ideas on
sections as the springboard into this portion of the book. He explores the suc-
cession of four perspectives: the West as a geographical entity, the West com-
posed of subregions, the West as an economic and political region, and the West
formed through the primacy of cultural and social determinants.
The fourth chapter presents the historiography of the West as an urban phe-
nomenon. This, of course, is Nash's favorite view of the West, as most of his writ-
ing has focused on the West from an urban perspective. Here he explores the
scholarship, showing the historical urban dynamics of the auto, the military, so-
cial mobility, and sunbelt migration.
In the last chapter Nash discusses the changing interpretations of the West as
myth. He begins by establishing the ancient European notions of a western par-
adise and how these ideas have come through the ages to color Anglo-Euro-
peans' preconceptions of the word "west." Upon this base he shows how
American historians and writers first viewed the West as a lost paradise of posi-
tive social influence; then as a frontier where many of America's social problems
emerged; then as a nostalgic psychological security blanket for Cold War anxi-
eties; and last as a mirror of America's social and environmental problems.
Nash's contribution to Western historiography will undoubtedly find a mixed
reception among contemporary scholars. This work will prove a valuable primer
for those unfamiliar with the legacy of Frederick Jackson Turner, and will prove
useful in many upper- and graduate-level courses. In many ways Nash's work de-
serves to stand alongside Michael P. Malone's Historians and the American West
and Rodman Paul and Richard Etulain's The Frontier and the American West. Oth-
ers will find Nash's conceptualization troublesome. For example, it would have
been just as easy to have developed the historiography of the West as an arid re-
gion and to have placed urban development within that context. Moreover,
Nash's displeasure with the "new" Western scholarship, particularly Patricia Lim-
erick's and Donald Worster's, is evident. This aside, Nash has produced a work
which reflects years of study and thought, and will prove a useful historiography
Southwest Texas State University
JAMES E. SHEROW
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994, periodical, 1994; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/m1/195/: accessed May 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.