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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 12, No. 4
December, 1934


Page 481

The Greater Southwest, by Rupert Norval Richardson and Carl Coke Rister. The Arthur H. Clark Company. $4.00.

From the closing days of the reign of Andrew Jackson when Texas was somewhat naively recognized as a sovereign state until the present day, the districts that compose the Greater Southwest have played a most conspicuous part in the development of the United States. During this period of almost one hundred years, many books and papers have been prepared on subjects relating to the Southwest. Some of them extolled the work of local heroes and sectional developments; others concentrated on general movements. But, up to the present time, few if any historians have attempted to record the history of the economic, social, and cultural development of the nine states that compose it in one single volume.

Every year since the last decade of the nineteenth century when the late Professor Frederick Jackson Turner began preaching the "spirit of the frontier," both in and out of the classroom, an ever increasing demand has existed for such a work.

In the book, The Greater Southwest, written by Professor Rupert Norval Richardson of Simmons University and Professor Carl Coke Rister of the University of Oklahoma, just released by the publisher, we find the fete accomplished.

In this small volume of barely five hundred pages, the authors have traced, uncanny as it may seem, in a very acceptable and understandable way the exploration, colonization, and development of a district comprising approximately one-third of the area and one-sixth of the population of the United States. Some topics apropos to the title of the book, and well within the confines of the economic, social, and cultural development, to be sure, have been covered in a somewhat cursory manner. This is particularly noticeable in the descriptions of the home, the individual, and the cultural institutions at successive stages. Nevertheless this book will serve not only as an excellent guide to the students of Southwestern history, but as a literary product of unusual value to the general public.

Page 482

The book is divided into twenty-four chapters that vary in length from fourteen to twenty-eight pages. Each one is fairly complete in itself but so arranged as to give a certain chronological sequence to the narrative as a whole. In the first chapter after the term Greater Southwest is explained a brief description is given of the natural divisions and a contrast is made of the topography, climate, fauna, flora, and the native races. Great as the difference is in the climatic and geographic conditions of each of the component parts, as pointed out by the authors, the variations of the customs, institutions, and stages of development of the Indian tribes are even more noticeable. Since it is true "that in no part of the United States have, the native races been a factor of greater historical importance than in the Southwest" the space reserved to them is commendable.

Beginning with the second chapter and extending through the book, the economic, social, and cultural development of Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona, and California is presented under captions that have been selected with much discretion. As the reader progresses from the one entitled "The Country and its Native Races" through the chapters on the meeting of civilizations, trappers and traders, the Southwest and the Civil War, the last stand of the wild tribes, the passing of the open range, conquests of the plow, and concluding with the all important topic "the Spirit of the Southwest," the story is revealed of the hardships and pleasures experienced by an alien people as they settled and developed a section of our union that from many points of view ranks near the top.

Most of the best collections of material on Southwestern history have been used in the preparation of this work. Footnotes, maps, and bibliographies are supplied in adequate numbers by the authors. Their deductions and interpretations are reasonable. Very few errors in dates, facts, and interpretations are to be found. And, quite likely, "the spirit of the frontier" will live again in the minds of those who read The Greater Southwest.

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