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June 2002 · Historically Speaking15 and war. In the West, the compulsions that drove men to duel, bite, or kill—or to announce pride in white skins and brave manhood —no longer carry their former moral sanction. Elsewhere, though, honorthrives as a deadly, anti-modern force. In the minds of millions it is currendy linked to the cause of Islam, whetherjustifiablyornot. Historians— along with ordinary citizens—might learn much from a deeper understanding of so potent an ethical design. Honor feeds on desperation , all-consuming hatred, poverty, and a burning sense ofhumiliation in the fece of an enemy's prosperity and military might. To knowthe historyofthe emotionallydrenched modes ofhonor may not prevent recriminations , acts ofbrutality, and force ofarms. But byreducingdie corruptingdreadofshame and repressed self-loathing, roads to peace maybe found. If not, it will take war to immobilize those unable to grasp anything but the superiority ofmartial strength. The Nazis, dedicated to Blut und Ehre, blood and honor, discovered that unwelcome truth. Let us hope it does not come to that again. Bertram Wyatt-Brown is the RichardJ. MiIbauerProfessorofU .S. History at the University ofFlorida. Hismostrecentbook isThe Shaping ofSouthern Culture: Honor, Grace, and War, 176Os-1880s (University ofNorth Carolina Press, 2001). ' I wish to thank Anne Wyatt-Brown and Randall Stephens for their editorial help. More extensive bibliographical citations are available on my Web site http://www.das.ufl.edu/usere/bwyattb/, under honorhistory. Richard W. Etulain The American West and Its Historians a cademichistorians have been study- ^ ing the frontier and the American Westformore than a century. When Wisconsin historian Frederick Jackson Turner told his colleagues in 1893 that the frontier was the most significant feature of the American past, he fired a historiographical shotheard around the English-speakingworld for decades. Interest in frontier and western history remained high until the 1960s and then waned in the 1970s and early 1980s. But since the late 1980s, western American history has regained its earlier status as a field alive with activity and controversy . With some ups and downs in popularity and minor modifications, the ideas in Turner's classic essay "The Significance of the Frontier in American History" held swayuntil die late 1960s. Along the way, otherhistorians supported the frontierstory or followed Turner's second idea, the significance of sections (regions), which he advanced later in his career. In the 1920s and 1930s, one advocate of both frontier and regional interpretations, Herbert Eugene Bolton, urged allAmerican historians to pay more attention to Spanish influences on American culture. Texas historian Walter PrescottWebb fired the imaginationsofodier regionalists—and more recendy environmental historians—withhisprovocative book, The Great Plains (1933). In addition, Kansan James Malin, in the 1930s and 1940s, urged historians to pay more attention to subregional and ecological patterns even as he systematically utilized statistical data well before other scholars. Later, Ray Allen Billington produced his magisterial overview offrontier history, Westward Expansion: A History oftheAmerican Frontier (1949), the most widely adopted western text from mid-centuryuntil the 1970s. In the 1950s, two other scholars provided new angles of vision through which to view the American West. American Studies specialist Henry Nash 16Historically Speaking · June 2002 Smith taughthistorians to thinkcarefullyand analyticallyaboutmyths and symbols cohering around the Westin his classicwork, VirginLand : TheAmerican WestasMythandSymbol (1950). He also urged western specialists to take more seriouslyworks ofmass culture such as dime novels, travel narratives, and governmentdocuments. Concurrently, western historian Earl Pomeroy, revisingTurner's thesis, argued that continuities of eastern social, cultural, political, and economic thought and experience bulked at least as large as frontier experiences in shaping the American West. In his books and essays, Pomeroycalled for a reorientation ofwestern history, urging historians to place more emphasis on persisting European and cisMississippi influences in the trans-Mississippi West. These interpretations held swayuntil the end of the 1960s. But that yeasty decade markedly reshaped western historiography from the early 1970s onward. These transformations signaled the end of the Turnerian dominance and the rise ofnew emphases on racial/ethnic, gender, and environmental themes in western historical writing. IfTurnerians seemed to disappear after 1970, specialists in ethnic history surfaced in increasing numbers. Some came by way of other fields. Robert Udey and Francis Paul Prucha, authors of earlier frontier military histories...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1944-6438
Print ISSN
1941-4188
Pages
pp. 15-17
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Ceased Publication
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