Marxist history of the western states

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Fri Apr 12 13:52:54 MDT 1996


I picked up Richard White's new history of the west ("It's Your
Misfortune and None of My Own") in order to get background on
England and the cattle ranching question and have continued
browsing through it all day long out of the corner of my eye. It is an
extraordinary book. It appears to be informed by both a Marxist and an
ecological perspective. For example, the book focuses on the origins of
some of famous "wars" of the old west in class conflict. Here is a
fascinating account of the Johnson County wars that were the theme of
a number of old cowboy movies:

"By the late 1880s, as the big ranchers staggered under the double
blow of declining prices and the legacy of the bitter winter of 1886-87,
their conflict with the small ranchers deepened. Most of these small
ranchers were former cowboys who had homesteaded land and
established small herds of their own. They regarded the big cattlemen
as illegal monopolists of the public domain; the big ranchers
considered the former cowboys to be rustlers who had helped
themselves to the ranchers' stock. Rusling certainly did occur, but not
on the scale big ranchers contended. In Johnson County--an area
controlled by small ranchers--there were only 13 cases of cattle
stealing in the peak year, 1889. It is also true, however, that juries
rarely convicted accused rustlers. In 1889 the courts dismissed all the
cases in Johnson County."

I noticed the White book in my local Barnes and Noble and conclude
>from this that it is easily available.


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