Historian Jack L. August’s Reading List Reflects His Love Of The West

Jack-in-his-front-yard-BYWLDr. Jack August Jr. is an academic and public historian of the American West. Raised in Arizona, August says, “You always had a sense of optimism growing up in Phoenix.” He began his love affair with the history of the West under the tutelage of Yale University’s renowned Western historian and president emeritus Howard R. Lamar.

From Yale, August went to the University of Arizona for his M.A., and the University of New Mexico for his Ph.D., where he studied under his mentor, 20th-century Western historian, Gerald D. Nash. Since 1985, August has practiced his craft as a historian, the last decade as executive director of the Barry Goldwater Center for the Southwest and visiting scholar in legal history at Snell & Wilmer LLP, in Phoenix. His most recent book, The Norton Trilogy: A History of Water and Agribusiness in the American Southwest (2013), was published by Texas Christian University Press. August’s passion for the history of the last 150 years of the West is revealed in the scholarship of his five recommended histories:

1. The Last Days of the Sioux Nation (Robert M. Utley, Yale University Press): A remarkable book describing the tragic descent of the Sioux Nation also traces its interaction with the army and the disastrous confrontation at Wounded Knee Creek in 1890.

2. The Far Southwest 1846-1912: A Territorial History (Howard R. Lamar, University of New Mexico Press): This classic and comprehensive work is the most insightful study of the history of New Mexico, Arizona, Utah and Colorado territories from 1846 to 1912. For historians of this region, it is required reading.

3. Water in the Hispanic Southwest: A Social and Legal History, 1550-1850 (Michael C. Meyer, University of Arizona Press): When Spain colonized the Southwest, explorers and settlers encountered a hostile, arid environment. Meyer explores the
prime importance of water, which led to establishing legal precedents, including those for American Indians.

4. The American West in the Twentieth Century: A Short History of an Urban Oasis (Gerald D. Nash, University of New Mexico Press): Nash’s pioneering look at the 20th century American West focuses on the transfer of political and economic institutions from East to West. Urbanization is a central theme in this history of the New West.

5. Frontier of Leisure: Los Angeles and the Shaping of Modern America (Lawrence Culver, Oxford University Press): Since the late 19th century, Southern California has been portrayed as the nation’s playground, dreamscape and home to a culture of leisure. Culver ties that culture to urban and suburban developments in the West and the nation.

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