The vastness of the American West is apparent to anyone who travels through it, but what may not be immediately obvious is the extent to which the landscape has been shaped by the U.S. government.
Water development projects, military bases, and Indian reservations may interrupt the wilderness vistas, but these are only an indication of the extent to which the West has become a federal
landscape. Historian Gerald Nash has written the first account of the epic growth of the economy of the American West during the twentieth century, showing how national interests shaped the West
over the course of the past hundred years. In a book written for a broad readership, he tells the story of how America's hinterland became the most dynamic and rapidly growing part of the country.
The Federal Landscape relates how in the nineteenth century the West was largely developed by individual enterprise but how in the twentieth Washington, D.C., became the central player in shaping the
region. Nash traces the development of this process during the Progressive Era, World War I, the New Deal, World War II, the affluent postwar years, and the cold-war economy of the 1950s. He analyzes
the growth of western cities and the emergence of environmental issues in the 1960s, the growth of a vibrant Mexican-U.S. border economy, and the impact of large-scale immigration from Latin America
and Asia at century's end. Although specialists have studied many particular facets of western growth, Nash has written the only book to provide a much-needed overview of the subject. By addressing
subjects as diverse as public policy, economic development, environmental and urban issues, and questions of race, class, and gender, he puts the entire federal landscape in perspective and shows how
the West was really won. "It was the federal government that determined the pattern of farms in the humid regions, built the major roads and highways, and fostered the growth of the principle
cities in the West. The federal government built the large dams and diverted important river systems throughtout the West, determined the shape of the large military reservations and their environs,
and forced Native Americans to occupy the reservations on which they can be found today. The government is largely responsible for the aerospace complexes and scientific research centers that became
so important in the West during the second half of the twentieth century. In short, the federal government created a federal landscape in the West." --Gerald D. Nash
An encyclopedic synopsis of numerous twentieth-century programs of the federal government, insofar as they affected economic conditions in the West. . . . The theoretical framework is never intrusive, and this volume would be useful for western American history courses.
—Journal of American History
He has laid bare a glaring but not entirely comprehended reality—that without federal intervention, the American West would be an entirely different place today. . . . It is essential reading for an understanding of the American West in the twentieth century.
—History: Review of New Books
In a very concise, tightly written, and thoroughly researched book, Nash has demonstrated how interesting and meaningful history can be and should be written.
—Journal of the West