Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History reconsiders the history of homesteading and overturns the long-held scholarly view regarding the subject. While the public has generally viewed homesteading as being one of the shining successes in American history, scholars have viewed the enterprise as tainted by illicit activity and as an overall failure. Using newly digitized evidence, the authors set out to examine the following stylized facts, or shared understandings, that serve as the basis for scholars’ dismissive claims:
The Traditional View
Our research, dealing primarily with the Great Plains from 1863 to roughly 1900, supports a more favorable view of homesteading than that of most scholars. We tested the stylized facts and advance the following points:
The New Understanding
While the authors realize that their findings are preliminary and limited by the scope of the project Study Area and other data, our findings demand a new era of homesteading scholarship based on newly available evidence and supported by data-based evidence as well as anecdotes.
Homesteading the Plains is part of a larger homesteading research initiative at the Center for Great Plains Studies. Learn more.
Homesteading the Plains, the first major scholarly study of homesteading in a generation, uses new data sources and new digital techniques to present a nuanced account of an important government program that scholars will need to reevaluate.
- Richard White, Stanford University