The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West / Edition 1

The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West / Edition 1

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by Stewart L. Udall
     
 

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ISBN-10: 155963894X

ISBN-13: 9781559638944

Pub. Date: 02/01/2004

Publisher: Island Press

<p>"The West is so cluttered with misconceptions that it is hard to have a serious discussion about its history." - Wallace Stegner.<p>For most Americans, the "Wild West" popularized in movies and pulp novels - a land of intrepid traders and explorers, warlike natives, and trigger-happy gunslingers - has become the true history of the region. The story of the

Overview

<p>"The West is so cluttered with misconceptions that it is hard to have a serious discussion about its history." - Wallace Stegner.<p>For most Americans, the "Wild West" popularized in movies and pulp novels - a land of intrepid traders and explorers, warlike natives, and trigger-happy gunslingers - has become the true history of the region. The story of the West's development is a singular chapter of history, but not, according to former Secretary of the Interior and native westerner Stewart L. Udall, for the reasons filmmakers and novelists would have us believe.<p>In The Forgotten Founders, Udall draws on extensive research and his vast knowledge of and experience in the American West to make a compelling case that the key players in western settlement were the sturdy families who travelled great distances across forbidding terrain to establish communities there. He offers an illuminating and wide-ranging overview of western history and those who have written about it, challenging conventional wisdom on subjects ranging from Manifest Destiny to the importance of Eastern capitalists to the role of religion in westward settlement.<p>Udall argues that the overblown and ahistorical emphasis on a "wild west" has warped our sense of the past. For the mythical Wild West, Udall substitutes a compelling description of an Old West, the West before the arrival of the railroads, which was the home place for those he calls the "wagon people," the men and women who came, camped, settled, and stayed. He offers a portrait of the West not as a government creation or a corporate colony or a Hollywood set for feckless gold seekers and gun fighters but as primarily a land where brave and hardy people came to make a new life with their families. From Native Americans to Franciscan friars to Mormon pioneers, these were the true settlers, whose goals, according to Udall were "amity not conquest; stability, not strife; conservation, not waste; restraint, not aggression." The Forgotten Founders offers a provocative new look at one of the most important chapters of American history, rescuing the Old West and its pioneers from the margins of history where latter-day mythmakers have dumped them. For anyone interested in the authentic history of the American West, it is an important and exciting new work.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781559638944
Publisher:
Island Press
Publication date:
02/01/2004
Edition description:
1
Pages:
272
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.80(d)

Table of Contents

Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Page,
Dedication,
Foreword - Removing the Barnacles,
Preface,
Introduction - How the West's Settlers Were Ousted from Their Olympian Ledge,
I - Beginnings,
1 - Native Peoples: The First Forgotten Founders,
2 - European Settlers: Human Faces, Far-Flung Places,
II - Settlement in the Old West: Correcting the Record,
3 - Explorers and Fur Trappers,
4 - The Religion Factor in Western Settlement,
5 - The Manifest Destiny Morass,
6 - California Gold Fever: Fact and Fancy,
7 - Bootstrap Capitalism in the Old West,
III - Violence in the Old West: Correcting the Record,
8 - The Wild West and the Wrenching of the American Chronicle,
9 - The Wild West and the Settlers: Contrasting Visions,
Acknowledgments,
Index,

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The Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
gerryburnie More than 1 year ago
Your understanding of 'how the west was won' until you read this version. Although published in 2002, I chose Forgotten Founders: Rethinking the History of the Old West by Stewart Udall [Island Press; 1 edition, September 1, 2002] because it so closely parallels my own thinking regarding the settlement of both U.S.A. and Canada. Indeed, Udall could be speaking for me when he writes: &quot;A shortcoming of histories that concentrate on broad outlines of events is the absence of human faces and stories of ordinary folk that would reveal what animated individuals and families and indicate the experiences they had. Yet only by considering individual human experience can we begin to develop a sense of what these men and women faced and an idea of the magnitude of their achievements.&quot; p. 37. And again at page 135 where he quotes Thomas Jefferson, probably one of the great populists of all time, i.e. &quot;Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independent, the most virtuous, and they are tied to their country, and wedded to its liberty and interests, by the most lasting bonds.&quot; He also credits religion as being one of the founding forces, a point on which I have some misgivings, but nonetheless it cannot be denied that in the 19th century it formed the spiritual heart of most communities, and in many cases the vanguard as well. Most particularly, however, Udall downplays such historical stereotypes as Lewis and Clark and the fur traders, as well as the 49ers as having little enduring impact on frontier development. He also downplays the importance of mining, ranching and other large-scale activities after the needs of the Civil War were met. Moreover, he is critical of the U.S. Military's campaign to &quot;pacifying&quot; the Indians, pointing repeatedly to their unjust and callous treatment, as well as that of Chinese immigrants in the early history of the West. He also dismisses dime novel and Hollywood-created legends, such as &ldquo;Butch&rdquo; Cassidy and Billy the Kid, as &ldquo;transitive outliers.&rdquo; Udall&rsquo;s point is that we have replaced the true heroes of the West with straw men, the romanticized creations of pulp novels and Saturday-afternoon movies, and that this is what has prevailed to the detriment of those who might have benefited from emulating the pioneer work ethic. All of this I agree with almost uncategorically. However, Udall&rsquo;s thesis is not without its overreaching assumptions and journalistic hyperbole. For example, the 49ers may have been an influx of opportunists flocking to the most &quot;hare-brained ventures&quot; in history (132), but of these many stayed to homestead in California and elsewhere. Likewise, miners lured to the prosperous discoveries went on to establish towns and cities that exist today. Therefore, they too form part of the faceless heroes who collectively settled the West. Nonetheless, it is one of those books that needs to be read to truly understand the ying and yang of North American settlement. Four bees.