Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:4 (Fall 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


A review of Land and People in the Northern Plains Transition Area (Lincoln, 1966), by Howard W. Ottoson, Eleanor M. Birch, Philip Henderson, and A. H. Anderson.

I feel somewhat like Rip Van Winkle as he returned to his village from his nap. Twenty years have passed since Land and People in the Northern Plains Transition Area was published and thirty since the studies on which it was based were begun. I have not been napping, but I feel like a stranger to a geographical area to which I once committed much time working with others to understand some of the economic and social phenomena of the late 1950s.

Land and People in the Northern Plains Transition Area focuses on the region of physical and economic transition between the intensive corn belt agriculture in the eastern fringe of the Great Plains and the wheat and ranching regions of the High Plains. The book is divided into three parts. The first provides a historical analysis of the factors conditioning the development of the plains-corn belt transition area and involves the review and synthesis of a substantial body of literature. The second part is based on field studies in the Nebraska pilot area between 1956 and 1965 and includes substantial analyses of these studies. The third part extrapolates into the future the trends discerned in the two earlier parts. It makes predictions about the size, nature, and viability of farms, small towns, small cities, and public services for the last decade of this century.