The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994 Page: 168
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The Eagle Bird: Mapping a New West. By Charles S. Wilkinson. (New York: Pan-
theon Books, 1992. Pp. xvii+191. Bibliography. $2o.oo.)
Under Western Skies: Nature and History in the American West. By Donald Worster.
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1992. Pp. 254. Notes, index. $27.50.)
The Eagle Bird and Under Western Skies offer splendid examples of the "New
Western History." In his opening chapter Donald Worster, who stands at the
forefront of this movement, offers this definition of what's afoot in his field: "we
[the new Western historians] have been creating a new history, clear-eyed, de-
mythologized, and critical" (p. 5). And it seems safe to say that Charles F. Wilkin-
son, a professor of law at the University of Colorado at Boulder, would concur
Wilkinson's "mapping" of this New West in The Eagle Bird is a brief but stimu-
lating and highly readable consideration of several areas of interest to new West-
ern historians. Basically, The Eagle Bird is an environmentally shaped look at
native American history, mining history, conservation efforts in the West, and
the role of the law in each of these areas. Wilkinson provides a highly provoca-
tive synthesis of issues such as water rights in the West and the National Parks
and National Forests of the region. He argues that four basic movements-
women's rights, civil rights, worker's rights, and, now, nature's rights (conserva-
tion)-have shaped twentieth-century America. And it is the conservation of
nature in the American West which primarily concerns Wilkinson. The only
shortcoming of The Eagle Bird is its lack of an index. And that, in all likelihood, is
the fault of the publisher rather than the author.
Donald Worster in Under Western Skies shares many of Wilkinson's concerns.
Worster has been tagged the "dean of American environmental historians," and
in this book he certainly lives up to that honor. His book, largely a compilation
of previously published essays or presentations, is of great value. Just having all
of these contributions bound in a single volume makes Under Western Skies well
worth the purchase price for the serious Western scholar and for any academic
or regional library. Not only is Worster a leading environmental historian but al-
so a strong advocate of regional history on a level with Texas's own Walter
Prescott Webb or J. Frank Dobie. In fact, Worster applauds Dobie's belief that
'"The history of any land begins with nature, and all histories must end with na-
ture" (p. 93). Whether he writes of hydraulic society in California, the grasslands
of the lower plains, or the impact of nature on human history in Alaska, Donald
Worster draws ecology into history as skillfully as any scholar has ever done. Un-
der Western Skies is simply must reading for anyone interested in the West. Along
with The Eagle Bird, it should find a place on the shelf of any well-read Westerner.
Whittier, California M. Guy BISHOP
Politics and Public Policy in the Contemporary American West. Ed. Clive S. Thomas.
(Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991. Pp. xiv+589. Index,
footnotes, bibliography, maps, graphs. $40.00, cloth; $19.95, paper.)
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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/m1/196/?rotate=270: accessed October 17, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.