Date of this Version
Great Plains Quarterly 31:3 (Summer 2011).
The advent and vast extent of immigration to the Great Plains states during the years 1865 to 1914 is perhaps best understood in light of the new international context that emerged during the 1860s in the aftermath of six large wars whose consequences included the enlargement of civil liberties, an acceleration of economic growth and technological innovation, the expansion of world markets, and the advent of mass immigration to the United States from east-central and southern Europe.1 Facilitating all of these changes was the achievement of widespread literacy through universal, free, compulsory, and state-funded elementary education in the United States, Canada, and most western and northern European countries. Moreover, the extraordinary transformation of the Great Plains from a sparsely inhabited frontier to a region of thriving cities and commercial agriculture took place in the remarkably short time of forty-nine years, during which Europe and North America enjoyed unprecedented peace and prosperity. Even as late as 1945, many Americans were aware that the entire history of the Great Plains states had occurred within the living memory of their most elderly citizens.