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

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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.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This collection of spirited essays is, says its distinguished author, his "final" book. But since serious works of thought like this rarely issue from the pens of former cabinet members, we should hope not. Udall, who served as Interior Secretary under presidents Kennedy and Johnson and before that as a congressman, is no typical politician, having written many serious books, among them the celebrated Quiet Crisis (1963). This one takes on what Udall considers the harmful myths about western U.S. history, myths that put the wrong people (fur traders and gold miners) and the wrong subjects ("Manifest Destiny" and armed violence) at the center of the history of the Old West. With a lively and sometimes personal take, he wants us to replace old folk tales with "reality"-with the known stories of a greater diversity of men and women, natives and newcomers, who gave the West its distinctive character. Udall is particularly compelling when writing of his own and his wife's great-grandparents, among whom was the Mormon who led the infamous Mountain Meadow Massacre of 1857. Unfortunately, this only tends to replace one set of "heroes" with another, "the forgotten founders" who take center stage here only as strong, religious, fearless, hard-working folk without shortcomings. The trappers, miners and politicians who did in fact play a role in the West are elbowed almost totally out of the picture. Nevertheless, Udall's version of the West's past fits well with recent scholarly views, and many who read this book because of its author's renown will gain solid knowledge and much pleasure. Maps, photos. (Oct. 10) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781559638944
  • Publisher: Island Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2004
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 272
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Stewart L. Udall was elected to four terms as congressman from Arizona before being appointed by President John F. Kennedy to be secretary of the interior, a position he held for eight years during the administrations of President Kennedy and President Lyndon B. Johnson. He is author of six books, including the best-selling The Quiet Crisis (Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1963), To the Inland Empire (Doubleday, 1987) and The Myths of August (Pantheon, 1994).

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