Beyond the Missouri: The Story of the American West

Written by Richard W. Etulain
Review by Jeff Westerhoff

A narrative of the West from North Dakota to Texas to the Pacific coast, this book explores the region’s history from prehistoric times through the present day. Etulain attempts to explain the impact of the invasion by Spanish conquistadors, the explorations of the vast western mountains, plains and rivers, the California Gold Rush, and the resettling of the native Indian population. This comprehensive work tries to clarify why and how events took place and their effect on the people and landscape. Etulain mentions famous and not-so-famous individuals who caused this part of the United States to change, creating a diversified population of European, Asian, Native American, black and Spanish cultures that had to co-exist, affecting lives and land as cities grew and the West evolved to the present day.

This book should make a marvelous reference book, but unfortunately it reads like a college text. The summaries would have been better placed at the end rather than the beginning of each chapter; a timeline would have been helpful as well. Each chapter provides a reading list, but footnotes and endnotes are not included.