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Montana: An Uncommon Landby Kenneth Ross Toole
Synopses & Reviews
In writing this classic history of his home state, K. Ross Toole consciously avoided a systematic presentation of chronological facts. Instead, he wrote a series of roughly chronological essays pointing up the themes that course through the years. The result is a sharply drawn portrait of Montana by one who knew how to interpret the remote and recent past and how to write with great effect.
"There is little or nothing moderate about Montana, the fourth-largest state, stretching 650 miles across the northern plains and the Rockies, a region beautiful and grim, parched, windbeaten, lonely under its big sky and in its seemingly infinite distances....It is, indeed, an uncommon land and K. Ross Toole, among whose forebears were several of its outstanding pioneers, knows it well from genesis to the present.... Excellent." New York Times
"Toole is a native Montanan...and he writes with deep feeling and regret about its early despoiling....The familiar trappers, traders, miners, cattle and sheepmen, and Indians are all there, and these are even more romantic company when the airy fictions are shed. Every lover of the longhorn and gun-toting era of our 'frontier' — the television fans included — should find these well-illustrated pages fast-moving and to his liking. The scholarly reader will find some new information and insights and also a helpful bibliography and index." Christian Science Monitor
"The finest exposition of the forces and factors affecting any Western State that has crossed this reader's desk." San Francisco Chronicle
Perhaps once in a generation it is possible for a historian to reinterpret the long sweep of an area and a period in our history. K. Ross Toole has chosen Montana for this purpose, and the brilliant success of his achievement must be apparent to all who read these pages.
He has consciously avoided a systematic presentation of the history of this "uncommon land," Instead, he has chosen to put the great and many of the smaller but significant episodes of a century and a half into new perspective. The record, in its colorful and romantic aspects, stretches from the days of Lewis and Clark; and in its more recent aspects, from the subjugation of the Indian to the predominance of big mining and timber enterprises. The resulting portrait is sharply drawn by a man who knows not only how to interpret the remote and recent past but how to write with great effect.
Montana is best remembered by most Americans as the state in which the Indian played his last dramatic role with the annihilation of General George Armstrong Custer. But it was also the area in which the fur trade had its roots; where the sheepherders and the cattlemen vied with each other for the right to graze the land; where the "honyockers" tried-and often failed to master the land and the seasons; where copper interests have played a powerful role in politics and in the lives of the people; and where, only recently, the oil industry has followed the boom-and-bust cycle so well known in the state.
This story of Montana points up particularly the position which is and has been occupied by the state in relation to the nation as a whole.
About the Author
K. Ross Toole was Hammond Professor of Western History in the University of Montana and the author of many articles and books, including Twentieth-Century Montana: A State of Extremes, published by the University of Oklahoma Press. He was also at different times Director of the Montana Historical Society and the Museum of the City of New York.
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