American West As a Place Term Paper

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This view, however, fails in Limerick's mind, to adequately show how we can directly trace our current social, economic, and political order to Jamestown, Salem, and the Louisiana Purchase. "White Americans saw the acquisition of property as a cultural imperative" (Limerick, 55). How has that changed either before or after? Isn't that the justification used by the Virginia Company when establishing Jamestown? Isn't that the same as Sam Houston's justification for the subjugation and annexation of Texas? Isn't that the same as our ongoing destruction of the environment to create homes, shopping malls, and warehouses? Manifest Destiny existed in the European mindset even before the phrase was coined. Thus, Limerick observes that we have to see our history as part of that same kind of continuity of intent.

Indeed, Limerick promotes a moral significance on the history of the American West rather than a focus on specific dates and specific events. Her view is to see all dates and events as part of a continuity - they string together without grand design, but are clearly guided by the common and natural White European tendency to see the world
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as resource to be owned, beaten into submission, and reshaped in their own image. This means that Limerick's view includes all the warts and failures associated with the West and our ongoing history - our Presidents have long made mistakes of grandiose nature, institutions have always failed, and the military has been used for ill-gain purposes since the founding of the nation. Thus, it is the continuity of character, and not the specific events, that makes the American West's history so unbroken.

Limerick succeeds amazingly well in showing us that understanding the people, their decisions, motivations, and their institutions is really the history of the American West.

What happened in 1865? A war ended. Why did it end and what did that mean? Ask the people, the government, and the social systems that participated. Limerick sees no unifying patterns of dates and events leading inexorably forward to create today, she sees instead the history of failures and successes that continue to shape how America interacts with itself and with others.


Limerick, Patricia Nelson. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West.…

Sources Used in Documents:


Limerick, Patricia Nelson. The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West. New York: W.W. Norton, 1987.

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