Lecture 1:  The Question Mark in the Circle


The first lecture lays out the intellectual background for the study of the Great Plains as regional cultural history, concluding with what amounts to a model for examining the culture(s) of the plains.  One of our texts, of course—Webb—is in the thick of this lecture.  You'll find him explaining his thesis early in The Great Plains and applying and developing it throughout.


Outline of Lecture

Introduction:  Stegner and History

Nationhood and History on the Plains

Frederick Jackson Turner, American frontier historian, and Harold Innes, Canadian economic historian, situate the history of the plains in the respective national sagas of the United States and Canada.

Regional Scholarship in the Natural Sciences

Grassland ecologists and other scientists point the way toward the study of the Great Plains for their own sake—the beginnings of truly regional scholarship.

Regionalism Crosses Over to the Social Sciences and Humanities

Ideas about adaptation as the key to life on the plains cross over from the natural sciences to the social sciences and humanities via the writings of historian Walter P. Webb. Adaptation to environment becomes the key interpretive lens by which American scholars view the History of the Great Plains. Canadian scholars, however, prefer multi-culturalism, rather than environmental adaptation, as an interpretive theme.

Travel on the Gravel:  Exploring the Great Plains Thesis

A Theory for Regional History

Drawing on both American and Canadian interpretations of the plains experience, we conclude this lecture with the construction of a theory of regional studies that will comprehend the commonalities and diversities of regional life.

Epilogue:  Tocqueville on the Plains




Check out these web pages that I have posted.

         The Turner Theses (at HIST 103 website)

         Harold Innis and Staples Theory (at HIST 382 website)

         The Webb Thesis

         Elwyn Robinson’s Six Themes

         Four Sources of Regional Culture


Thinking About the Great Plains

Stegner, Wallace. "Child of the Far Frontier," Horizon 5 (September 1962): 94-95.

Morton, W. L. “Marginal,” Manitoba Arts Review 5 (Spring 1946): 26-31.

The Great Plains at the Grassroots

Pearson, Jim B. “Memories of Walter P. Webb,” Southwestern Historical Quarterly 92 (1988-89): 40-45

Selected Bibliography

Stegner, Wolf Willow—the work on which the introduction to the lecture turns

Sharp, Whoop-Up Country—the work that pioneered the comparative approach to the Canadian-American plains

Robinson, History of North Dakota—see how Robinson incorporates the interpretations discussed in lecture


No recommendations specific to the lecture


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