Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

Spring 2012


Great Plains Quarterly 32:2 (Spring 2012).


Copyright © 2012 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska.


The Big Empty: The Great Plains in the Twentieth Century endeavors to synthesize a history that is as almost as vast and challenging as the region itself. Not surprisingly, R. Douglas Hurt succeeds most fully when addressing his specialty, agricultural history. Less masterful but still effective are the book's sections concerning energy development, Plains Indians, Latinos, and political economy. The Big Empty has little to say, by contrast, about shifting perceptions of the Plains, the decline of railroads, and the rise of federal highways, while Hurt's insistence on the fundamental stasis of the Plains environment seems to contradict the many cases of environmental change he analyzes.