||0679454799 Amazon.com When he was a teenager, growing up in New York, Walter Nugent's only knowledge of the West came through Dragnet and B-movies, watching "cops and villains speed along streets lined with palm trees." For many in the East, the Midwest, and the South, the Great West has remained terra incognita, a diverse, dynamic region with mythic origins and enormous influence over our culture and economics. With the benefit of an outsider's eyes, Nugent has constructed "a new, unified history of the people of the West from earliest times to the present," answering why people came west and why, for the most part, they stayed. Because Nugent has conceived a "social-demographic history ... a history of the people, not of their politics or other doings," he warns readers not to look for chapter breaks at 1776, 1865, or 1945--economic booms and depressions played a bigger role in the West than politicians and generals, it seems. Likewise, geography is contested, receiving knowing treatment as Nugent digs into whether the West is the "Plains to the Pacific, or just Dodge City to the Sierras." Nugent successfully pursues broad themes, such as the region's rapid urbanization and its central role in the baby boom and the death of homesteading. But Into the West shows equal affection for the more personal stories, such as the extended conflict between Anglos and braceros in the Great Plains and the nascent rise of turn-of-the-century tourism (the Rock Island Railroad promised in 1903 that "a month in California will do you more good than all the medicine in Christendom"). --Paul Hughes From Publishers Weekly Nugent's vibrant multicultural history of the American West shatters a number of myths. He finds that the popular mythology of an Old West of wagon trains, Indian raids and range wars is an "entirely Anglocentric" narrative that conceals the West's richly diverse ethnic and racial heritage. His boldly inclusive chronicle begins with Paleo-Indians like the Mogollon people, who settled the mountains east of Phoenix, Ariz., by 300 B.C. As he summarizes how Spanish missionaries, soldiers and ordinary people penetrated the Southwest and California, converting, decimating, interacting with and transforming the lives of Native Americans, he evokes a West that existed as something more than the proving ground of manifest destiny for the young American republic. Based on excerpts from letters, memoirs and testimonies of pioneers, his eye-opening mosaic gives us a West of Basque sheepherders and restaurateurs; Ukrainian and Greek railroad workers; Polish, Swiss and Croat miners; migrant workers dispossessed by the 1890s depression. Nugent persuasively argues that, between 1914 and 1929, the West spearheaded the country's fundamental shift from rural to urban. With a keen eye, he examines recent trends, such as resurgent environmentalism, depopulation of rural areas, the postwar baby boom (most explosive in the nation's six westernmost states) and the advent of Latinos as the West's largest minority. Nugent's picture of the real WestAcomplex, multicultural and, above all, realAserves as a modern alternative, if not a correction, to Frederick Jackson Turner's classic The Frontier in American History. Photos, maps. (Dec.) Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.