What was common to the experiences of farmers, cowboys, and miners in the West ?

1 Answer

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

According to current thinking about the "Old West," what was common to the experiences of these groups is that none of them were as independent as they have been portrayed in the past.  

The typical story of the American West has been of individuals making their way in difficult conditions.  It has included small farmers on their own plots, individual miners panning in mountain streams, and cowboys who were seen as the epitome of individualism.  Modern historians disagree with this portrayal.  In its place, they tend to offer a vision of the West as a place dominated by large corporations.  They note that miners were exploited by big mining companies for whom they worked.  They point out that the small farmers were typically outcompeted by large "bonanza farms."  They emphasize that cowboys worked for large companies, not as independent people.

In these ways, historians today argue that what all these groups had in common was that they were not as independent and individualistic as they are popularly portrayed in our culture.