How the West was Won (or lost): The American West in the Nineteenth Century - HIST7630

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This module will explore the American West, looking at the social and economic dynamics underlying Western history, together with processes of environmental transformation. The unit spans a chronological period from 1803 – the Louisiana Purchase - to 1893 – the date of the Chicago Exposition and Turner’s famed ‘Frontier thesis’. Commencing with a look at constructions of the West in history, literature and film, the module will move on to critically analyse key issues and moments in Western History including the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Gold Rush, and the Indian Wars. Outline themes include the construction of regional identities, protracted conflicts for resources, environmental changes, and the continuing importance of the West as a symbolic landscape. A key aim of the course lies in facilitating critical discussion on the process of nineteenth-century westward expansion, addressing issues of colonial conquest, environmental despoliation, economic change, and social cohesion. Through lectures and seminars, we will explore the major themes of Western history in this period and examine relevant historiographical debates. Portrayals of the West in art, literature, and film will be used extensively to illustrate the diversity of Western culture and situate the importance of myth in shaping popular and historical discourse.


Contact hours

3 hours per week

Indicative reading

R HINE & JM FARAGHER - 'The American West: A New Interpretive History' (2000)
P LIMERICK - 'Legacy of Conquest: Unbroken Past of the American West' (1987)
W NUGENT - 'Into the West: The Story of its People' (1999)
R WHITE - 'It’s Your Misfortune and None of my Own’: A New History of the American West' (1991)
W CRONON - 'Under An Open Sky: Rethinking America’s Western Past' (1992)
C MILNER (ED) - 'Oxford History of the American West' (1994) and 'Major Problems in the History of the American West' (1997)
JM FARAGHER - 'Rereading Frederick Jackson Turner: The Significance of the Frontier in American History'

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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