Global capitalism and not rugged individualism shaped the West from its start, writes William G. Robbins in Colony and Empire: The Capitalist Transformation of the American West. Building on the work of historians William Cronon and Patricia Limerick, Robbins charts the loss of local economies across the West and the region's increased reliance on world markets. For him, Western history is best studied as a series of dependencies and a progression of centralized power - with capital from the East Coast and Europe fueling exploration and development that benefited the few - Rockefellers, Guggenheims and Hearsts. Quoting historian Joseph Kinsey Howard, Robbins, who teaches at the University of Oregon, characterizes the West as a subject colony, "the end of the cracked whip."
University of Kansas Press, Lawrence, Kan. 256 pages, 1994. $29.95 cloth.
* Chip Giller