The Big Empty
The Great Plains, known for grasslands that stretch to the horizon, is a difficult region to define. Some classify it as the region beginning in the east at the ninety-eighth or one-hundredth meridian. Others identify the eastern boundary with annual precipitation lines, soil composi-tion, or length of the grass. In The Big Empty, leading historian R. Douglas Hurt defines this region using the towns and cities--Denver, Lin-coln, and Fort Worth--that made a difference in the history of the environment, politics, and agriculture of the Great Plains.
Using the voices of women homesteaders, agrarian socialists, Jewish farmers, Mexican meatpackers, New Dealers, and Native Americans, this book creates a sweeping survey of contested race relations, radical politics, and agricultural prosperity and decline during the twentieth century. This narrative shows that even though Great Plains history is fraught with personal and group tensions, violence, and distress, the twentieth century also brought about compelling social, economic, and political change.
The only book of its kind, this account will be of interest to historians studying the region and to anyone inspired by the story of the men and women who found an opportunity for a better life in the Great Plains.
"This is an important book because it dares to take on--with much success--a topic, a region, and indeed a state of mind, none of which can be defined without considerable ambiguity or controversy. Hurt approaches the Great Plains primarily through social history, but also incorporates environmental, economic, and political history masterfully in this synthesis." --David Vaught, author of After the Gold Rush: Tarnished Dreams in the Sacramento Valley
R. DOUGLAS HURT is a professor and the chair of the Department of History at Purdue University. He has written numerous books about the Great Plains, including The Great Plains during World War II and Problems of Plenty: The American Farmer in the Twentieth Century.
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