Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

May 1996


Published in Great Plains Research 6:1 (Spring 1996). Copyright © 1996 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


This volume is a welcome addition to the sparse literature on western politics. Its approach is threefold. First, it views postwar western politics from a historical perspective as opposed to that of political science or economics; and editor Richard Lowitt has gathered together mostly historians to write the chapters. Second, instead of examining western politics comparatively by themes or by major events affecting political developments, the book unfolds state by state. There are a total of nineteen chapters coinciding with the volume's definition of the West as the nineteen states from the Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean, including Alaska and Hawaii. Third, in most cases the chapters examine a specific aspect of the state or a central event as opposed to attempting an overall assessment of state politics since 1945. The chapter on Alaska, for example, considers the interaction between oil companies and environmentalists; the chapter on Nevada looks at the gaming industry and politics; and the Wyoming chapter examines the role of the media in politics in a state where politics is of the "friends and neighbors" variety afforded by a small state population. Some chapters, such as those on North and South Dakota and on Oklahoma, take a broader perspective, however, and attempt to cover basic themes in state politics.