The Big Empty

The Great Plains in the Twentieth Century

R. Douglas Hurt (Author)
Hardcover ($65.00), Paperback ($29.95) Buy
The Great Plains, known for grasslands that stretch to the horizon, is a difficult region to define. Some classify it as the region beginning in the east at the ninety-eighth or one-hundredth meridian. Others identify the eastern boundary with annual precipitation lines, soil composition, or length of the grass. In The Big Empty, leading historian R. Douglas Hurt defines this region using the towns and cities—Denver, Lincoln, and Fort Worth—that made a difference in the history of the environment, politics, and agriculture of the Great Plains.

Using the voices of women homesteaders, agrarian socialists, Jewish farmers, Mexican meatpackers, New Dealers, and Native Americans, this book creates a sweeping survey of contested race relations, radical politics, and agricultural prosperity and decline during the twentieth century. This narrative shows that even though Great Plains history is fraught with personal and group tensions, violence, and distress, the twentieth century also brought about compelling social, economic, and political change.

The only book of its kind, this account will be of interest to historians studying the region and to anyone inspired by the story of the men and women who found an opportunity for a better life in the Great Plains.
"Anyone who wants to have a better understanding of the development of the American west in the twentieth century should read this book."—Canadian Journal of History

"Hurt’s new book presents a vast array of information about the 20th-century Great Plains and includes a wealth of notes to sources that will lead many readers into a rich literature and perhaps inspire more research and publishing about the Plains. The Big Empty will ultimately take its place alongside other classic works of history about the Great Plains, including James Malin’s The Grassland of North America, Walter Prescott Webb’s The Great Plains and Everett Dick’s The Sod House Frontier."—Prairie Fire

The Big Empty de-romanticizes the relationships between the American heartland and its people by bringing the historical record to bear on a past that has been richly storied but unevenly studied.”—The H-Net: Humanities and Social Science Reviews Online

"This is an important book because it dares to take on—with much success—a topic, a region, and indeed a state of mind, none of which can be defined without considerable ambiguity or controversy. Hurt approaches the Great Plains primarily through social history, but also incorporates environmental, economic, and political history masterfully in this synthesis."—David Vaught, author of After the Gold Rush: Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley
The Big Empty
344 Pages 6 x 9 x 1 Published: 2011 Hardcover (9780816529704)
Paperback (9780816529728)

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