College textbooks on the American West : 1910-1997.

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Lowman, Michael
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Middle Tennessee State University
This dissertation examines frontier and western history undergraduate college textbooks published between 1910 and 1997 to determine to what extent and in what manner textbooks reflected the historiographical thought current at the time of their publication. The study is divided into four major time periods: 1893-1930, 1930-1945, 1945-1960, and 1960-1997. Textbooks published in each time period are analyzed in light of the historiographical thinking of their era. Questions considered include: (1) Which textbooks are Turnerian, and which are anti-Turnerian or neo-Turnerian? (2) Which textbooks are chronological, which are thematic, and which take an inquiry approach? (3) Which textbooks deal with the frontier movement and which focus on the West? (4) Do the textbooks conclude at 1890, or do they extend their study into the twentieth century? (5) To what extent and with what degree of comprehensiveness do the books include any persons other than white Anglo-Saxon Protestant males--Indians, women, blacks, Asians, and other ethnic groups? (6) Which books are limited to traditional political and economic history and which deal significantly with social, cultural and environmental history?
Generally, the study has been limited to first editions of textbooks. However, in the case of books that went through several editions over a period of years, one or more later editions is included so that significant changes can be noted.
The study concludes that textbooks on the history of the American West have changed considerably, especially since 1970. Recent textbooks tend to ignore or challenge Turnerian concepts. While they give some attention to America's early trans-Appalachian frontier, they focus on the trans-Mississippi West, carrying the account well into the twentieth century.
Recent textbooks deal significantly with social and cultural history, including more information regarding females and minority peoples. By the late 1980s, with the influence of New Western History, textbooks incorporated much information about the environmental consequences of westward expansion, but they excluded many of the characters and events found in traditional textbooks. They also abandoned the chronological narrative, focusing on themes of human and environmental exploitation.
Director: Fred S. Rolater.