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344 pages. Softcover. Brand new book. AMERICAN WEST. 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 composi-tion, or length of the grass. In The Big Empty, leading historian R. Douglas Hurt defines this region using the towns and cities&emdash; Denver, Lin-coln, and Fort Worth&emdash; 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. "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 (Key Words: Great Plains, American West, R. Douglas Hurt).
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