Dust Bowl (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
It has been some fifty years since Walter Prescott Webb published his monumental The Great Plains. This great work—which studied the social, economic, and institutional adjustment of settlers to this water-short region—was the first to demonstrate comprehensively the interrelationships of ecology and civilization. In the ensuing five decades, the plains environment has held the fascination of historians such as Henry Nash Smith, Eugene Hollon, Edward Everett Dale, and Frederick Rathjen. Scores of books and articles have been published on this semihumid, still relatively underpopulated region—perhaps more than on any other section of the country.
It is surprising that yet another landmark book could be written about this well-trodden subject. However, Donald Worster, Associate Professor of American Studies at the University of Hawaii, has made a major contribution to American history in Dust Bowl. This book pushes back the frontiers of conservation and environmental history in many important ways, and it marks the fulfillment of scholarly promise Worster demonstrated in his other fine books, Nature’s Economy and American Environmentalism. With this publication, he makes a strong claim for being the most worthy inheritor of Walter Prescott Webb’s mantel.
The Dust Bowl is a well-written, thoroughly documented synthesis of human and ecological events. Man’s misuse of the fragile plains...
(The entire section is 2793 words.)
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