The Mobilized American West, 1940–2000


The Mobilized American West, 1940–2000

John M. Findlay

History of the American West Series

518 pages
36 photographs, 2 illustrations, 21 tables, 1 appendix, index


July 2023


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eBook (EPUB)
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July 2023


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eBook (PDF)
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July 2023


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About the Book

In the years between 1940 and 2000, the American Far West went from being a relative backwater of the United States to a considerably more developed, modern, and prosperous region—one capable of influencing not just the nation but the world. By the dawn of the twenty-first century, the population of the West had multiplied more than four times since 1940, and western states had transitioned from rural to urban, becoming the most urbanized section of the country. Massive investment, both private and public, in the western economy had produced regional prosperity, and the tourism industry had undergone massive expansion, altering the ways Americans identified with the West.

In The Mobilized American West, 1940–2000, John M. Findlay presents a historical overview of the American West in its decades of modern development. During the years of U.S. mobilization for World War II and the Cold War, the West remained a significant, distinct region even as its development accelerated rapidly and, in many ways, it became better integrated into the rest of the country. By examining events and trends that occurred in the West, Findlay argues that a distinctive, region-wide political culture developed in the western states from a commitment to direct democracy, the role played by the federal government in owning and managing such a large amount of land, and the way different groups of westerners identified with and defined the region. While illustrating western distinctiveness, Findlay also aims to show how, in its sustaining mobilization for war, the region became tethered to the entire nation more than ever before, but on its own terms. Findlay presents an innovative approach to viewing the American West as a region distinctive of the United States, one that occasionally stood ahead of, at odds with, and even in defiance of the nation.

Author Bio

John M. Findlay is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Washington, Seattle. He is the author of People of Chance: Gambling in American Society from Jamestown to Las Vegas and Magic Lands: Western Cityscapes and American Culture after 1940, and coauthor with Bruce W. Hevly of Atomic Frontier Days: Hanford and the American West.


"Findlay's book offers social and grassroots political analyses missing from narrower postwar studies."—R. L. Dorman, Choice

"There is no disputing Findlay's facility with language, his thorough research, and his affection for and fascination with a region to which we are all artistically and emotionally connected."—Tom Carpenter, Roundup Magazine

"The Mobilized American West is a thorough and up-to-date overview of twentieth-century regional history that environmental historians and others would be happy to read and teach."—Kirke Elsass, H-Environment

"This book is remarkable in its scope and perception of modern trends that made our West. I would highly recommend this book to students of western history who are eager to understand how developments and demands of the modern world led the West and its people to where they are today."—Mike Kassel, Annals of Wyoming

“Writing a sweeping survey of a region as complex as the American West is a challenging task. Findlay has succeeded where few have before. His lively and eloquent narrative details the many types of mobilization that occurred in the last half of the twentieth century, illuminating how the region both carved a distinct path and aligned with the rest of the nation. In his gifted hands, a rich, nuanced portrait of a contested place and its diverse residents emerges. This book will reshape how generations of scholars make sense of the modern West.”—Connie Y. Chiang, author of Nature behind Barbed Wire: An Environmental History of the Japanese American Incarceration

“John Findlay has given us an elegant, clear-eyed survey of arguably the most transformative period in the history of the American West. For Findlay, American regionalism is a slippery but significant factor in the making of the nation. At once erudite and modest, sweeping and nuanced, The Mobilized American West, 1940–2000 is history that matters. Findlay reminds us of the perpetual dance of ideas and actions, people and places, power and resistance, with lively examples of diverse Americans who have made their own histories, for better and worse.”—Virginia Scharff, distinguished professor of history emerita, University of New Mexico, and chair of western history, Autry Museum of the American West

“This is a bold, ambitious, smart, insightful, deeply researched, and fast-paced account of the West from 1940 to 2000. Essential reading for everyone interested in the modern West.”—David M. Wrobel, author of America’s West: A History, 1890–1950

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Series Editor’s Introduction
1. A Mobilized Region: The American West during Wartime
2. Westerners: Regional Societies and Regional Identities
3. “A Little More Wide Open”: Social and Political Movements in the Western States
4. Seized by Initiative: Direct Democracy and Political Culture in the Far West
5. Armed Standoffs: The Politics of Federal Lands in the West
6. Region of the Imagination: The Mythic West and the Realistic West after 1940
Appendix: Western States Census Summaries, 1940–2000

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