Sarah DeutschJun 13, 2022
Making a Modern U.S. West
The Contested Terrain of a Region and Its Borders, 1898-1940
University of Nebraska Press 2022
In less than half a century, the American West changed dramatically from a region of dynamic borders, politics, and identities to a more fixed zone of borders and demarcations. This is the argument made by Sarah Deutsch, professor of history at Duke University, in Making a Modern U.S. West: The Contested Terrain of a Region and Its Borders, 1898-1940 (U Nebraska Press, 2022), a major new synthetic work and part of Nebraska’s History of the American West series. In this wide ranging and transnational book. Deutsch connects movements often seen as separate, such radical organizing in the labor movement, in Mexican politics, and women’s suffrage, to make the case that Western politics in the early 20th century were particularly unsettled, the region’s political future yet undecided. Similarly fluid dynamics defined racial and sexual histories of the region. It was World War I and the years following when the US government found the tools it deemed necessary to define and categorize people and places in ways that would curtail this fluidity. A remarkable work, Deutsch strongly makes the case that the early 20th century was a crucial period for defining how exactly the modern US West would look.
Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota.