Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Great Plains Quarterly Vol. 29, No. 4, Fall 2009, pp. 328-329


Copyright 2009 by the Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska- Lincoln


This impressive survey of western urban history demonstrates How Cities Won the West. Its original conceptualization and persuasive argument are supported by an impressive amount of evidence. It should be considered as the "last stand" among urban historians who still feel the need to argue for the central role of urbanization in the development of the West.

Carl Abbott demonstrates that in the nineteenth century several kinds of towns and cities-raw outposts, gateways, industrial towns, irrigation towns (seeking to be the center of an "Inland Empire"), and tourist centers-competed for central roles that they believed would tip the balance of the national system to the West. He explains how this booster dream gradually became reality as first the railroads and then shifting "waves" of global capitalism enabled western cities to develop by extending urban networks across vast interior hinterlands where they "claimed natural landscapes" for their own economic, resource, and cultural uses.