Book review: “Empires, Nations, and Families: A New History of the North American West, 1800-1860” by Anne F. Hyde

Covering four decades of a vast segment of this country in one book is almost too challenging to contemplate, but Ann F. Hyde took on the task with energy and dedication.
BY DENNIE HALL Published: February 10, 2013
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Covering four decades of a vast segment of this country in one book is almost too challenging to contemplate, but Anne F. Hyde took on the task with energy and dedication.

“Empires, Nations, and Families: A New History of the North American West, 1800-1860” (Ecco/HarperCollins, $21.99) was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize when it was published in 2011, and its popularity has resulted in the recently published 628-page paperback.

The Journal of American History has praised Hyde's publication as “a book that is not only well researched and presented but instantly absorbing.” “Well researched” may be too much praise for a book that uses an abundance of secondary sources, but such technique is necessary in such a task as this.

Hyde, a history professor at Colorado College, deserves all the plaudits given her.

The westward movement was enhanced with the Louisiana Purchase and the advent of the steamship to ply such rivers as the Missouri and Arkansas as well as the Mississippi. Trains were becoming an important factor. Shortly after this period they were to span the country.

Commerce, prominent families and the growing cities all are discussed. Even religion, especially the Mormon movement, played a part. Wars, laws, inventions — all get their due.

The book is almost encyclopedic in structure; it's packed with information presented in an absorbing fashion.

— Dennie Hall