This is a “Very Short Introduction,” but it has benefited from a long list of listeners and readers. In the first category are thousands of undergraduates and dozens of graduate students who were captivated or perhaps just captives as I worked out ideas and themes in this book over the twenty plus years that I have been teaching the history of the American West at Princeton University and UCLA. My thanks to them, to my colleagues at UCLA and the Autry National Center, and especially to David Myers, the current chair of the history department at UCLA. I am also very grateful to the many readers who tackled earlier versions of the manuscript and offered immensely valuable comments and corrections: Adam Arenson, Marilyn Aron, Paul Aron, Eric Avila, Katherine Benton-Cohen, John Bowes, Meredith Mason Brown, Carolyn Brucken, Lawrence Culver, Matthew Dennis, William Deverell, John Mack Faragher, Amy Green, Erik Greenberg, John Gray, Andrew Graybill, David Igler, Kelly Lytle-Hernandez, Benjamin Madley, Joshua Paddison, David Paddy, Erika Perez, Malcolm Rohrbough, Arthur Rolston, Virginia Scharff, Rachel St. John, Brenda Stevenson, Allison Varzally, and Karen Wilson. Thanks as well to Marva Felchlin for helping me find the images and to Nancy Toff, Rebecca Hecht, and Martha Ramsey for their keen editorial judgments.
The book is dedicated to four extraordinary mentors, none of whom is a historian of the American West, but what they taught me about history shapes this book.