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History West

Ranching and the American West: A History in Documents

The Broadview Source Series

edited by Susan Nance

Broadview Press
Initial publish date
Oct 2021
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2021
    List Price

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The transformation of the American West is one of the key topics in the study of both US history and global environmental history. The role of ranching in the West is also central to the growing field of animal history. This volume covers the periods between the early Indigenous acquisition of horses in the eighteenth century, to the introduction of Hispanic horsemanship techniques and market cattle in the “Old West,” and finally to the work of twentieth- and twenty-first-century ranching families sustaining their ways of life.

The documents in this volume reveal not simply the human past but also the distinct histories of cattle, horses, and the land. Readers will explore intersecting themes of capitalism and beef, environmental change, rural labor, and gender and racial politics as debated by westerners themselves, as well as the meaning and power of the cowboy myth in American life. The introduction incorporates recent scholarship and provides a fresh look at this key topic in American history, while informative headnotes and rich annotations help orient the reader within the historical sources.

About the author

Susan Nance is an associate professor of U.S. history and an affiliated faculty member at the Campbell Centre for the Study of Animal Welfare at the University of Guelph, Ontario, Canada. She is the author of How the Arabian Nights Inspired the American Dream, 1790–1935.

Susan Nance's profile page

Editorial Reviews

“This is the primary source collection I’ve always wanted. Full of journals, letters, photos, paintings, maps, songs, and even advertisements, this is a comprehensive—and fun—look at the history of ranching and the American West. Susan Nance is the ultimate tour guide for this story. She provides discussion questions and writing prompts but encourages you to draw your own conclusions. Ranching and the American West is perfect for students or anyone looking to learn more about this fascinating topic.” — Joshua Specht, University of Notre Dame

Ranching and the American West is a thoughtful, beautifully constructed, and frighteningly accurate and objective examination of one of the nation’s iconic businesses. It takes the reader from the origins of Western American ranching through its evolution to what we know as ranching today. This book is a brilliant blending of the culture, environment (especially in relation to horses and cattle), and people involved in Western ranching. The volume will be an invaluable resource…. And while this study focuses on ranching in the American West, its examination of the settler colonial process transcends boundaries. It offers insights into the shaping not only of the West but of America as a whole.” — Jeffrey D. Means, University of Wyoming

Other titles by Susan Nance