Encyclopedia of the American West

ISBN 13: 9780028974996

Encyclopedia of the American West

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9780028974996: Encyclopedia of the American West
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This four-volume encyclopedia provides extensive coverage of the people, places, features, events, organizations, and social customs that shaped the American West. The more than 1,700 entries provide concise, well-written information about persons, places, or things. For example, the one-page article on George Armstrong Custer touches upon his West Point education and his rapid rise in rank in the army but focuses on his career fighting in the Indian Wars and the Battle of Little Big Horn. The article also provides seven see also references, and five books are listed in the bibliography--enough information to begin research on Custer. The article Native American Peoples (37 pages long) is subdivided into nine sections ("Pre-Columbian Peoples," "Peoples of Alaska," "Peoples of the Great Plains," etc.), each written by a different contributor. Each section covers the history of that group up to the present day. These are two of the entries that one would expect to find in an encyclopedia on the American West. But this set ranges far beyond the West of cowboys-and-Indians stereotypes. It is the unexpected or not so famous entries (e.g., Bill Nye, humorist who wrote for the Laramie (WY) Boomerang; Roy Rogers and Dale Evans; Japanese Internment; Intermarriage) that make it unique. African-American Churches, Film Industry, and City Planning reflect the broad scope of the set. Stereotypes has separate sections on Native Americans, Mexicans, Asian Americans, and Mormons.

Encyclopedia of the American West covers the 23 states west of the Mississippi River (including Alaska and Hawaii, but excluding Louisiana) from the eighteenth through the mid^-twentieth century. The entries range in length from a paragraph to multiple pages; all are signed (the complete list of contributors is found at the beginning of volume 1, followed by the complete list of entries and authors); and most entries conclude with a bibliography. The articles are scholarly, yet they are enjoyable and easy to read. The two editors are not academics but have written extensively on the American West. The text is supplemented with more than 1,000 black-and-white photographs, drawings, and maps. See and see also references are used generously throughout the encyclopedia. A comprehensive index to the entire set is in volume 4. Preceding the index is a section that arranges the biographical entries by profession (e.g., actors and entertainers, detectives, gunfighters, railroad tycoons, etc.).

The most disappointing item in the encyclopedia is the maps. The state maps are nothing more than locator maps, including only the state capital. Maps of rivers highlight only the river described and include only state boundaries. Overall, the maps add little to the accompanying articles. Historical Atlas of the American West (Univ. of Oklahoma, 1989) provides more detailed maps and more of a selection of topics.

The obvious comparison to be made is with the one-volume Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West (Harper & Row, 1977). There is much overlap between the two works, but each encyclopedia has something to offer. For example, Reader's Encyclopedia includes more biographies and provides the excellent article "Indian Languages," while Encyclopedia of the American West provides the 10-part section "Native American Cultures." Encyclopedia of the American West does not completely replace Reader's Encyclopedia of the American West, but it should find a place in any high-school, public, or academic library that collects in the area of the American West or American studies.

From Library Journal:

Encyclopedia of the American West, on the other hand, is a broader work containing some 1700 signed entries by over 200 academic historians of the West, intended as a synthesis of current scholarly theories and viewpoints of Western people, places, and events. The book covers the early Spanish period through the early 20th century and all areas west of the Mississippi, including Alaska, Hawaii, and sections of Canada and Mexico. An example of its diversity is the multipart essay under "Literature," covering travel, Indian-captivity narratives, dime novels, Western novels, and Native, Asian, and Mexican American literatures. Rather than cover some major topics in one essay, e.g., Indians, there are See and See also references to related articles. Suggested readings and a relevant illustration on nearly every page are useful additions; however, lack of detail on most maps is a major weakness. With a target audience from high school through history scholars, this work is recommended for most reference collections.?Stanley P. Hodge, Ball State Univ. Lib., Muncie, Ind.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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