The American West

The American West

Led by: Prof. Elliott West (University of Arkansas)
Course Number: AMHI 632
Semesters: Spring 2020, Summer 2022, Summer 2024



Image: William Hicks Jackson, Walpi Pueblo First Hopi Mesa, Arizona (The Gilder Lehrman Institute, GLC02436.16)

Walpi Pueblo First Hopi Mesa, Arizona

Course Description

The American West has played an enduring role in the popular culture of the nation and the world. The images are familiar: cowboys and cattle drives, Indian wars, wagon trains, rowdy mining towns, and homesteaders. All in fact were part of the story, but behind the color and drama of films, novels, and art were developments critical to the creation of the modern American nation and its rise as a global economic, political, and military power. The West was as well a showplace of the industrial, social, technological, and scientific forces remaking the world beyond America. This course will trace the expansion of the United States to the Pacific, the exploration of the West, the defeat and dispossession and profound tragedy of its Native peoples, and environmental transformations matched at few if any other places on earth. Within all of this were compelling human stories that are part of our collective national identity.

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Lecture Preview

Lecture 1: “The West: Its Land and Peoples”

About the Scholar

Elliott West, Alumni Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus, University of Arkansas

Elliott West is a specialist in the social and environmental history of the American West. He has twice been chosen as his university’s teacher of the year and, in 2009, he was one of three finalists for the Robert Foster Cherry Prize for the outstanding classroom teacher in the nation. His numerous books include The Way to the West: Essays on the Central Plains (1995); The Contested Plains: Indians, Goldseekers and the Rush to Colorado (1998), winner of the Francis Parkman Prize and the OAH Ray Allen Billington Prize; and Continental Reckoning: The American West in the Age of Expansion (2023), winner of the Bancroft Prize. 

The views expressed in the course descriptions and lectures are those of the lead scholars.