The Essential West: Collected Essays

Hardcover (Print)
Rent from
(Save 59%)
Est. Return Date: 12/21/2014
Buy New
Buy New from
Buy Used
Buy Used from
(Save 32%)
Item is in good condition but packaging may have signs of shelf wear/aging or torn packaging.
Condition: Used – Good details
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $17.96
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 40%)
Other sellers (Hardcover)
  • All (7) from $17.96   
  • New (4) from $30.04   
  • Used (3) from $17.96   


Scholars and enthusiasts of western American history have praised Elliott West as a distinguished historian and an accomplished writer, and this book proves them right on both counts. Capitalizing on West’s wide array of interests, this collection of his essays touches on topics ranging from viruses and the telegraph to children, bison, and Larry McMurtry. Drawing from the past three centuries, West weaves the western story into that of the nation and the world beyond, from Kansas and Montana to Haiti, Africa, and the court of Louis XV.

Divided into three sections, the volume begins with conquest. West is not the first historian to write about Lewis and Clark, but he is the first to contrast their expedition with Mungo Park’s contemporaneous journey in Africa. “The Lewis and Clark expedition,” West begins, “is one of the most overrated events in American history—and one of the most revealing.” The humor of this insightful essay is a chief characteristic of the whole book, which comprises ten chapters previously published in major journals and magazines—but revised for this edition—and four brand-new ones.

West is well known for his writings about frontier family life, especially the experiences of children at work and play. Fans of his earlier books on these subjects will not be disappointed. In a final section, he looks at the West of myth and imagination, in part to show that our fantasies about the West are worth studying precisely because they have been so at odds with the real West. In essays on buffalo, Jesse James and the McMurtry novel Lonesome Dove, West directs his formidable powers to subjects that continue to shape our understanding—and often our misunderstanding—of the American West, past and present.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Calling this book a collection of essays makes as much sense as calling the Rocky Mountains a collection of rocks. On the contrary, The Essential West is a collection of riveting stories, original reflections, witty aphorisms, innovative perspectives, and insights that go straight to the heart—of the West and of the reader.”—Patricia Nelson Limerick, author of The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West

“No one has written about western history with more insight, compassion, wisdom, and wit than Elliott West.  Everything he writes is worth reading, and these essays are West at his best.”—Virginia Scharff co-author of Home Lands: How Women Made the West

“Elliott West is the best historian of the American West writing today.”—Richard White

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780806142968
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 344
  • Sales rank: 1,155,618
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, is the award-winning author of numerous articles and books, including Growing Up with the Country: Childhood on the Far-Western Frontier; The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers, and the Rush to Colorado; and The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story.

Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Foreword Richard White xi

Introduction 1

Part I Conquest

1 Lewis and Park; Or, Why It Matters That the West's Most Famous Explorers Didn't Get Sick (or at Least Not Really Sick) 15

2 Golden Dreams: Colorado, California, and the Reimagining of America 44

3 Called-Out People: The Cheyennes and the Central Plains 57

4 Wired to the World: The Telegraph and the Making of the West 78

5 Reconstructing Race 100

Part II Families

6 The West before Lewis and Clark: Three Lives 129

7 Child's Play: Tradition and Adaptation on the Frontier 154

8 Becoming Mormon 176

9 Listen Up: Hearing the Unheard in Western History 194

Part III Myth

10 Bison R Us: The Buffalo as Cultural Icon 213

11 Jesse James, Borderman 230

12 American Pathways 258

13 On the Trail with Gus and Call: Lonesome Dove and the Western Myth 277

14 Stories 290

Index 313

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)