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The American West

Competing Visions

Karen R. Jones, John Wills

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The American West used to be a story of gunfights, glory, wagon trails, and linear progress. Historians such as Frederick Jackson Turner and Hollywood movies such as Stagecoach (1939) and Shane (1953) cast the trans-Mississippi region as a frontier of epic proportions where 'savagery' met 'civilization' and boys became men. During the late 1980s, this old way of seeing the West came under heavy fire. Scholars such as Patricia Nelson Limerick and Richard White forged a fresh story of the region, a new vision of the West, based around the conquest of peoples and landscapes.

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List of Illustrations
Part One: Old West
1. Lewis and Clark: Mapping the West
2. Frontier Germ Theory
3. 'The Gun that Won the West'
4. Cowboy Presidents and the Political Branding of the American West
Part Two: New West
5. Women in the West: The Trailblazer and the Homesteader
6. Women in the West: The 'Indian Princess' and the 'Lady Wildcat'
7. The Wild West Defiled: The American Indian, Genocide and the Sand Creek Massacre
8. The Thirsty West: Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam and Las Vegas
Part Three: Recreating the West
9. The Western Renaissance: Brokeback Mountain and the Return of Jesse James
10. The Arcade Western
11. Turn here for 'The Sunny Side of the Atom': Tourism, the Bomb and Popular Culture in the Nuclear West
12. Re-creation and the Theme Park West

About the Author

Karen R. Jones is Director of American Studies and Lecturer in American History at the University of Kent. She is author of Wolf Mountains: A History of Wolves Along the Great Divide (2002).

John Wills is a Senior Lecturer in American History and American Studies at the University of Kent. He is author of /Invention of the Park/ (2005), /Conservation Fallout/ (2006) and, with Karen Jones, /The American West/ (2009).


Many viewpoints have been deconstructed in this text, producing a myriad of images, some forceful, some unusual, some creative and all provocative and lively [...] Whether a big picture emerges here is debatable; but so is the notion that there should be a bigger picture. The objective is to learn about competing images.
- Margaret Walsh, University of Nottingham
This sprightly written book has plenty of engaging and illuminating moments.
- Elliott Ness, University of Arkansas, Journal of American History