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The Great Plains

3.56 of 5 stars 3.56  ·  rating details  ·  73 ratings  ·  15 reviews
This classic description of the interaction between the vast central plains of America and the people who lived there has, since its first publication in 1931, been one of the most influential, widely known, and controversial works in western history. Arguing that "the Great Plains environment. . .constitutes a geographic unity whose influences have been so powerful as to ...more
Paperback, 525 pages
Published August 1st 1981 by University of Nebraska Press
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Community Reviews

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Brian Anton
Walter Prescott Webb’s The Great Plains takes a topical approach and study of the effect that the Great Plains had on those who attempted to settle it. The thesis of the book is to show how, “the Great Plains have bent and molded Anglo-American life, have destroyed traditions, and have influenced institutions in a most singular manner” (8). Essentially, Webb describes the Plains as a completely different place that Americans had to adapt to after crossing west of the 98th Meridian. To the east, ...more
Mathew Powers
This is a tough book to grade. Obviously, the test of time has proven to dispel many of the romantic myths, as well as show the book for its racism, misogyny, and allusions of grander when it comes to American Expansionism. Not to mention, many of his physical definitions and analyses are incorrect. As well, he forgets to mention the endless amounts of immigrants migrating the Plains, as well as the nuisances with RR owned/sold lands versus lands sold to Homesteaders. I could go on and on....

But
...more
History Lover
Creey racism at its worst. Still read for environmental history, but only because it was the first. Check out (if you can stand it) parts of the book where he celebrates genocide and conquest, and compares Mexican blood to filthy ditch water.
Kathy
Wallace Stegner suggested that this book was the quintessential encyclopedia of Western history. It was written in the early part of the 20th century and was hard to find and get, yet it reads vital to today's readers. No study of Western history is complete without this book. Delightfully thorough and honest. And important and broad perspective.
Jeffrey David
I ahve to be honest. Webb is a big Texas nationalist (ok, maybe that's a big strong.) But his leanings--he wrote a book on the Texas Rangers that goes short of applauding)--needs to be taken into account. however...a big however...this book is awesome. His chapter alone on the geologic formation of the Great Plains is breathtaking. His ideas about how aridity forced Americans to culturally adapt isn't bad either. He talks a lot about the invention of the Colt six-shooter and why environmental ne ...more
Patrdr
This is history of an old fashioned sort, mixed in with a Westerner's pride.

The treatment of Mexicans, Indians and sometimes of all others than Anglo-Americans might not have raised eyebrows in 1929. The Plains were a challenge fo courageous men, but had a tendency to drive women mad.

The first part of the book is a sweeping and enjoyable take on the pre-conquestera: physical geography and climate dictates all; Indians adapt, though the nomadic people of the plains are a more savage obstacle to
...more
Thomas Isern
Funny how when you reread a classic, you bring different things to it, and it offers different things to you. This time through I was assessing Webb in light of recent developments in chaos & complexity theory. What emerges is the importance of narrative in bridging chaos & complexity. Webb uses narrative to inject agency into what would otherwise be hopeless environmental determinism. Sometimes the narrative is individual and specific, sometimes it is corporate and general, but either w ...more
Gigi
The Classic Eco-history
Rey Dekker
...excellent text book used in HIST431 course at NDSU...eminently readable...almost a novel but teeming with facts, many of which I was unaware of even with a youth spent on the plains...barbed wire fence was a revelation...fairly long page-wise so a bit of a grind but enjoyable...this was my second read and comparing this to Fredrick Jackson Turners "Rise of the New West" it is a summer beach read...if you want to know what made the plains what they are today this is the book...a classic...
Norma Toby  Wilcox
Great American Geography Story .... Riveting
Tom
This is one of the most outstanding works in American History - both at the level of narrative and at the historiographical level. Webb presents the reader with a vast array of prisms to view the history of not only the Great Plains, but America as a whole. There are shortcomings to this work, but any reader of history is well served to plumb this work.
Jan C
I think I actually read it in a hardback edition from the school library.

Excellent telling, if I recall correctly, of barbed wire and "the real McCoy".
Thom Dunn
Lots about barbed wire. Different types of barbed wire. I recall Jennings saying he used a text for only three years.
Loree
worth reading for a theory on how this part of the united states has put its stamp on our civilization...
Fredrick Danysh
Webb writes about the Great plains in the center of North America. Somewhat wordy and dull.
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