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The West: An Illustrated History

The West: An Illustrated History

by Geoffrey C. Ward

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This vivid narrative history -- magnificently illustrated with more than 400 photographs, many of them never before published -- takes us on a gripping journey through the turbulent history of the region that has come to symbolize America around the world. Drawing on hundreds of letters, diaries, memoirs, and journals as well as the latest scholarship, The West


This vivid narrative history -- magnificently illustrated with more than 400 photographs, many of them never before published -- takes us on a gripping journey through the turbulent history of the region that has come to symbolize America around the world. Drawing on hundreds of letters, diaries, memoirs, and journals as well as the latest scholarship, The West presents a cast as rich and diverse as the western landscape itself: explorers and soldiers and Indian warriors, settlers and railroad builders and gaudy showmen. The book is filled with stories of heroism and hope, enterprise and adventure, as well as tragedy and disappointment. It explores the tensions between whites and the native peoples they sought to displace, but it also encompasses the Hispanic experience in the West. Gracefully written, handsomely designed, meticulously researched, The West is an unrivaled work of history that brilliantly captures all the drama and excitement, the sober realities and bright myths of the American West.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Following the format of The Civil War and Baseball, two earlier book companions to Ken Burns's television series, this beautifully designed, handsomely illustrated and stylishly written social history of the American West will be published as Burns's new eight-part documentary airs on PBS. Readers will be drawn to the book's lavish use of unfamiliar 19th- and 20th-century photographs (shown to great advantage on the oversize 9-1/4" x 10-7/8" pages), but those who come only to browse should stay to read. The core text is by Geoffrey Ward, coauthor of the two earlier tie-ins and author of two admired books on FDR; while each of the eight chapters includes a collateral essay by a visiting scholar, among them N. Scott Momaday, Dayton Duncan, Patricia Nelson Limerick and Richard White. The book is loosely built around the treatmentand the actionsof the first settlers: the American Indians (who are viewed neither romantically nor uncritically), as each new wave moves westward: explorers, trappers, soldiers, gold miners, Mormons, railroaders, cowboys, lumbermen, ranchers and others. It is an ethnic collision of Indians, Mexicans, Yankees, ex-Confederates, European immigrants and Chinese. Examined also are the changing myths the West has engendered. Its scope, the sheer size of the landscape and the time it covers make this book as sweeping as the Plains. $300,000 ad/promo; BOMC, History Book Club and QPB main selections; simultaneous release, Random House Audio Books. (Sept.)
This handsome, oversized book is the companion volume to the PBS series from Stephen Ives and Ken Burns. The West is history at its best, with a literate text, over 400 photos, and eight essays on topics such as Hispanics, Western women, pioneers, and Native Americans. The text is liberally sprinkled with excerpts from letters, diaries, journals, and memoirs, making the whole book personal. Bandits and missionaries, Catholics and Mormons, cowboys and farmers, buffalo and coyote, Billy the Kid and William F. Cody, the Civil War and the Alamo, Cochise and Sitting Bull-they are all here. Seldom has history been more accessible or entertaining. A thorough index accompanies the text, as well as a selected bibliography. Although I can still hear the voices of Hector Elizondo, Laura Dern, John Lithgow, Gary Sinise and Eli Wallach (and many others) narrating the TV program, a reader doesn't need to have seen the series to enjoy and appreciate this volume. It stands powerfully on its own. KLIATT Codes: JSA*-Exceptional book, recommended for junior and senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 1996, Little Brown, Back Bay, 445p. illus. bibliog. index., Ages 12 to adult.
— Janet Julian
Library Journal
From the producers of the PBS series The Civil War and Baseball, which both have accompanying books, comes another compelling companion, with narrative provided by the eminent historian Ward. This work provides a brief introduction to one of the most important movements in American historythe expansion westward. The book's eight chapters, each written by a different historian, are arranged according to the corresponding PBS series. Beginning with Western America in the 1500s, the work presents all aspects of Western culture from the reality to the myth, moving chronologically from the Spanish exploration of the West, Native Americans, Hispanic Westerners, women in the West, and the Gold Rush, and ending with Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. If one is looking for an in-depth, comprehensive history of the westward movement, this is not it, but as an introduction, this work is an enjoyable and interesting place to start. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/96.]Terri P. Summey, Emporia State Univ. Lib., Kan.
Kirkus Reviews
This brisk narrative of the discovery and settling of the American West is based on the script for the 12-hour PBS series by Stephen Ives and Ken Burns. As with Burns's earlier acclaimed series on the Civil War, this text, tracing the successive waves of explorers, trappers, settlers, missionaries, soldiers, wanderers, and hustlers who rolled across the vast western landscape, depends heavily on quotes from letters, diaries, and memoirs. Ward (who wrote the book based on Burns's Civil War series) weaves these materials into a clear, precise text, stressing the varied, often bitter or violent, experiences of individuals attempting to make a home in a hard land, and paying particular angry attention to the destruction of Native American societies. The work is illustrated by several hundred period photographs, many of them uncommon, drawn from the series.

Product Details

Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
9.25(w) x 11.00(h) x 1.12(d)

Read an Excerpt

The West

An Illustrated History
By Geoffrey C. Ward

Back Bay Books

Copyright © 2003 Geoffrey C. Ward
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0316735892


In a conversation with us several years ago, the Kiowa poet N. Scott Momaday remarked that the American West is "a dream. It is what people who have come here from the beginning of time have dreamed.... It is a landscape that has to be seen to be believed, and may have to be believed in order to be seen."

For five years we have traveled that landscape, photographed its vistas, talked to its people, sought out its history, all as part of our production of The West, an eight-part documentary series for public television. Now "100,000 airmiles, 72 filmed interviews, 74 visits to archives and collections, and more than 250 hours of film later "we have begun to understand at least something of what Momaday meant. In the West, everything seems somehow larger than life, and we now can see why so many different peoples have come to consider their own innermost lives inextricably linked with it. Over the centuries, the West has been the repository of the dreams of an astonishing variety of people "and it has been on the long, dusty roads of the West that those dreams have crisscrossed and collided, transforming all who traveled along them, rewarding some while disappointing others.

The story of the West was once told as an unbroken series of triumphs "the victory of "civilization" over "barbarism," a relentlessly inspirational epic in which greed and cruelty were often glossed over as enterprise and courage. Later, that epic would be turned upside down by some, so that the story of the West became another "equally misleading "morality tale, one in which the crimes of conquest and dispossession were allowed to overshadow everything else that ever happened beyond the Mississippi. The truth about the West is far more complicated, and much more compelling.

America without the West is unthinkable now. Yet there was nothing inevitable about our taking of it. Others had prior claim to its vastness, after all, and we could quite easily have remained forever huddled east of the Mississippi. In resolving to move west and become a continental nation we would exact a fearful price from those already living on the land. But we also became a different people, and it is no accident that that turbulent history "and the myths that have grown up around it "has made the West the most potent symbol of the nation as a whole, overseas as well as in our own hearts.

Of course, no film series, no book "no library of books, for that matter "can ever encompass the whole story of the West. There are as many valid approaches to telling it as there are able historians willing to try. We believe that history really is biography, and in this volume " and in the script for the twelve-hour film series upon which it is based " we have chosen to focus on the experiences of individual men and women, many of whom tell their own stories in their own words, through diaries and letters and autobiographical accounts.

Our cast is deliberately diverse "there are explorers and soldiers and Indian warriors, settlers and railroad builders and gaudy showmen, but there are also a Chinese ditch digger and a rich Mexican American landowner, a forty-niner from Chile and a Texas cowboy born in Britain, a woman missionary to the Indians who loathed the West and a Wellesley graduate who loved it in spite of everything it did to her and her family. Some of our subjects are celebrated figures. Others will be new to most readers. None plays the stereotyped part one or another of the West"s contradictory myths dictates. All were selected because they seemed to us both to illuminate the times through which they lived and to tell us something important about the West, as well. Our subjects were chosen, too, to demonstrate that in the often stirring story of the West, a human price was paid for every gain. The stories we"ve tried to tell in these pages and on the television screen at least suggest, we hope, the outlines of a more inclusive story of the West than is conventionally told; a story that is more frank about our failures and more clear-eyed about the cost of even our greatest successes than the old one, but also a story in which each of us can find a place and all can take pardonable pride. The story of the American West, we believe, is at once the story of a unique part of the country and a metaphor for the country as a whole. With all its heroism and inequity, exploitation and adventure, sober realities and bright myths, it is the story of all of us, no matter where on the continent we happen to live, no matter how recently our ancestors arrived on its shores.


Excerpted from The West by Geoffrey C. Ward Copyright © 2003 by Geoffrey C. Ward.
Excerpted by permission.
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