Kansas and the West

New Perspectives

Rita Napier, ed.

Kansas is steeped in the lore and legends of the Old West-from Dodge City to the Dust Bowl days. But, as these authors show, that leaves out a lot of state history.

Drawing on scholarship that has transformed our understanding of the history of both state and region, Kansas and the West introduces readers to a wide range of people, places, and themes that demonstrate the complex relationships among race, class, gender, and environment. In so doing, it also puts to rest many of the myths that have dominated western history for so long, reflecting both the positive and the negative consequences of human actions over 150 years of Kansas history.

“Rather than presenting a vision of a simple agrarian society evolving in measured steps into a more complex construct, this book’s contributors provide invaluable insight into a more subtle, uncertain, and provocative visions. Kansas and the West stands as an excellent example of how to go about the task of revisiting what once seemed such familiar ground, but which, upon reflection, cries out for further exploration and illumination.

—Great Plains Quarterly

“Napier provides an excellent service to all interested in Kansas history. . . . She seeks to illuminate the diversity of Kansas history by examining the roles of race, class, gender, and environment to provide a more inclusive view of the past. . . . Napier’s selections and her inclusive introductory essay certainly provide a rich diverse sampling of the new history on the state. A work such as this has long been overdue. As a result, Napier has provided a great service to this state. Her achievement will appeal to a large audience, whether teachers using it in classes, or scholars of the West or Kansas, or those who are simply interested in a handy collection of some of the freshest, original ways to re-read the history of this state.

—Kansas History
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The collection gathers eighteen key writings that take readers through three eras. The dispossession and resettlement of Native Americans is seen in such pieces as Elliot West's "Story of Three Families" and Richard White's "Cultural Landscape of the Pawnees." The nineteenth-century evolution from "Bleeding Kansas" to a modern state is seen in works ranging from writings on the Civil War era by Bill Cecil-Fronsman and Richard Sheridan to observations on road improvements by Paul Sutter. And selected aspects of Kansas in the twentieth century are seen in such contributions as Donald Worster's controversial views on the Dust Bowl, Mary Dudziak's article on desegregation in 1950s Topeka, and a look at labor in the beefpacking industry by Donald Stull and Michael Broadway.

By incorporating voices from history that have too long been lost in the din of tradition—especially the voices of Native Americans and blacks, women and laborers—Kansas and the West provides a provocative and much-needed new view of the state's past. A book that will prove fascinating for general readers, instructive for students, and an invaluable touchstone for scholars, it brings us different stories, new actors, and fresh images that challenge some of our most cherished views of the West—and in the process shows us that complexity and diversity have always characterized what we have habitually thought of as "simpler times."

About the Author

Rita Napier is associate professor of American history at the University of Kansas and author of The Peoples of Kansas.