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The Metropolitan Frontier
Cities in the Modern American West
By Carl Abbott
244 pp. / 6.12 in x 9.25 in / 1995
Paper (978-0-8165-1570-7) [s]
  - The Modern American West

Related Interest
  - The Modern West
  - Geography

When the American West represented the country's frontier, many of its cities may have seemed little more than trading centers to serve the outlying populace. Now the nation's most open and empty
Named Best Book in North American Urban History by the Urban History Association

The leading overview of the subject. . .Abbott deftly organizes his sprawling topic into ten especially well-written chapters. [The book] is a tour-de-force of interdisciplinary social science and makes a major contribution to fields as diverse as regional history, urban geography, and public policymaking.


Perhaps more than anything else, this book is about connections and networks. . . .[It] allows us to understand how the numerous cities of North America fit together and into what kind of whole. In this respect, it is in a class by itself.

—Western Historical Quarterly

Abbott has done a thorough job. . . . The cities of the American West are seen through a kaleidoscope of cultural, political, historical images.

—Library Journal

An ambitious attempt to describe one of the most significant trends in contemporary American society. The author, an urban historian with a strong knowledge of the subject matter, takes the reader on an engaging and informative journey filled with demographic facts and archival information about the western region.

—Contemporary Sociology

region is also its most heavily urbanized, with 80 percent of Westerners living in its metropolitan areas. The process of urbanization that had already transformed the United States from a rural to an urban society between 1815 and 1930 has continued most clearly and completely in the modern West, where growth since 1940—spurred by mobilization for World War II—has constituted a distinct era in which Western cities have become national and even international pacesetters.

The Metropolitan Frontier places this last half-century of Western history in its urban context, making it the first comprehensive overview of urban growth in the region. Integrating the urban experience of all nineteen Western states, Carl Abbott ranges for evidence from Honolulu to Houston and from Fargo to Fairbanks to show how Western cities organize the region's vast spaces and connect them to the even larger sphere of the world economy. His survey moves from economic change to social and political response, examining the initial boom of the 1940s, the process of change in the following decades, and the ultimate impact of Western cities on their environments, on the Western regional character, and on national identity.

Today, a steadily decreasing number of Western workers are engaged in rural industries, but Western cities continue to grow. As ecological and social crises begin to affect those cities, Abbott's study will prove required reading for historians, geographers, sociologists, urban planners, and all citizens concerned with America's future.

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