The Legacy of Conquest

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Limerick takes issue with the commonly accepted notion that the year 1890 marked the closing of the American frontier and the end of an era made unique by Indian wars, border skirmishes, outlaws, mining booms, land barons, and pioneers. To illustrate her thesis, she carefully documents the problems and conflicts bequeathed to us by the forces of conquest that have shaped our relationships with the land and its resources and the peoples who live in the American West.

THE LEGACY OF CONQUEST has much to commend it: solid research, richness of detail, and a clarity of style infrequently marred by pedantic jargon. It is both readable and interesting. Only in the introduction, where Limerick sets forth the thesis of the work, does the book and the reader suffer.

Limerick suggests that when historians accept Frederick Jackson Turner’s notion that the year 1890 closed the book on the winning of the West, they misunderstand and misinterpret the forces that have shaped and are presently shaping the social, economic, and political events west of the hundredth meridian. One suspects that much of the labored introductory material is intended for fellow historians. Fortunately, as Limerick moves into her material, she writes in a style that is entertaining as well as lucid.

The work is divided into chapters that tie the events of the past to the problems of the present. Limerick shifts the focus of her work away from the familiar cast of...

(The entire section is 415 words.)