This week at In The Past Lane, the history podcast, I speak with historian Patricia Nelson Limerick about her iconic book, The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. When this work was first published 30 years ago in 1987, it sent shock waves through the community of historians whose work focused on the American west. Up to that time, much of the history of the West had focused on narrative histories of events like the famed Long Drive that established the ranching industry and biographies of famous white men like Kit Carson and Billy the Kid. This work ignored or misrepresented the stories of women, Native Americans, African Americans, and immigrants. It also glossed over the ugly aspects of westward expansion, like violence, dispossession, racism, exploitation, failure, and environmental degradation. Limerick’s book reframed the understanding of the American West, insisting that these themes were essential elements of that story. Her book infuriated many old guard scholars. But it also inspired a whole generation of new scholars who went on to transform the study of western history from a sleepy subfield into one of the most dynamic fields of US history. In this episode, I begin by first explaining the core aspects of the Old Western History – it’s key myths and myopias – many of them originating in the work of entertainers like Buffalo Bill and Hollywood westerns. Then I sit down with Patricia Nelson Limerick for a fun and fascinating conversation.
Among the many things discussed in this episode:
How and why was our understanding of the American West shaped by Buffalo Bill and Hollywood for much of the 20th century?
How did New Western History scholars like Patricia Nelson Limerick radically reshape our understanding of the American West?
Who was Buffalo Bill and how did his Wild West show come to exert a profound influence on the way Americans understood the history of the West?
Historian Patricia Nelson Limerick reflects on the 30th anniversary of her landmark book, Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West.
Why the history of the American West is incomplete without women, immigrants, Native Americans, and African Americans.
How the New Western History challenged the heroic Manifest Destiny narrative of westward expansion by emphasizing violence, dispossession, racism, exploitation, failure, and environmental degradation.
Related ITPL podcast episodes:
Episode 044 with historian Richard White talking about his book, The Republic for Which It Stands.
Music for This Episode
Jay Graham, ITPL Intro (JayGMusic.com)
Kevin McCleod, “Impact Moderato” (Free Music Archive)
Andy G. Cohen, “A Human Being” (Free Music Archive)
Blue Dot Sessions, “Sage the Hunter” (Free Music Archive)
Jon Luc Hefferman, “Winter Trek” (Free Music Archive)
The Bell, “I Am History” (Free Music Archive)
Executive Producer: Lulu Spencer
Technical Advisors: Holly Hunt and Jesse Anderson
Podcasting Consultant: Darrell Darnell of Pro Podcast Solutions
Photographer: John Buckingham
Graphic Designer: Maggie Cellucci
Website by: ERI Design
Legal services: Tippecanoe and Tyler Too
Social Media management: The Pony Express
Risk Assessment: Little Big Horn Associates
Growth strategies: 54 40 or Fight
© In The Past Lane, 2018
Recommended History Podcasts
Ben Franklin’s World with Liz Covart @LizCovart
The Age of Jackson Podcast @AgeofJacksonPod
Backstory podcast – the history behind today’s headlines @BackstoryRadio
Past Present podcast with Nicole Hemmer, Neil J. Young, and Natalia Petrzela @PastPresentPod
99 Percent Invisible with Roman Mars @99piorg
Slow Burn podcast about Watergate with @leoncrawl
The Memory Palace – with Nate DiMeo, story teller extraordinaire @thememorypalace
The Conspirators – creepy true crime stories from the American past @Conspiratorcast
The History Chicks podcast @Thehistorychix
My History Can Beat Up Your Politics @myhist
Professor Buzzkill podcast – Prof B takes on myths about the past @buzzkillprof
Footnoting History podcast @HistoryFootnote
The History Author Show podcast @HistoryDean
More Perfect podcast – the history of key US Supreme Court cases @Radiolab
Revisionist History with Malcolm Gladwell @Gladwell
Radio Diaries with Joe Richman @RadioDiaries
DIG history podcast @dig_history
The Story Behind – the hidden histories of everyday things @StoryBehindPod
Studio 360 with Kurt Andersen – specifically its American Icons series @Studio360show
Uncivil podcast – fascinating takes on the legacy of the Civil War in contemporary US @uncivilshow
Stuff You Missed in History Class @MissedinHistory
The Whiskey Rebellion – two historians discuss topics from today’s news @WhiskeyRebelPod
American History Tellers @ahtellers
The Way of Improvement Leads Home with historian John Fea @JohnFea1
The Bowery Boys podcast – all things NYC history @BoweryBoys
Ridiculous History @RidiculousHSW
The Rogue Historian podcast with historian @MKeithHarris
The Road To Now podcast @Road_To_Now
Retropod with @mikerosenwald