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Saber and Scroll

Abstract

Walter Prescott Webb (1888-1963) was a twentieth century historian whose writings, particularly The Great Plains (1931), revolutionized views of the American West by demonstrating how man had adapted technology and institutions to a new environment and by describing the West, not simply as an idea or a process, but as a distinct geographic region. In 1952, the Mississippi Valley Historical Association chose The Great Plains as “the most important book in the first half of the twentieth century by a living American historian.” A later work, The Great Frontier (1951), applied Webb’s conception of the frontier to the entire Western Hemisphere and sought to identify the effects of this “world frontier” upon European and global history. In addition to his important contributions to the history of the American West and to the study of the frontier in world history, Webb did seminal work in a number of other historical fields, including environmental history and the study of comparative frontiers.

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