In this pioneering study, White explores the relationship between the natural history of the Columbia River and the human history of the Pacific Northwest for both whites and Native Americans. He concentrates on what brings humans and the river together: not only the physical space of the region but also, and primarily, energy and work. For working with the river has been central to Pacific Northwesterners' competing ways of life. It is in this way that White comes to view the Columbia River as an organic machine--with conflicting human and natural claims--and to show that whatever separation exists between humans and nature exists to be crossed.
“This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend.” This indelible quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance applies especially well to California, where legend has so thoroughly become fact that it is visible in everyday landscapes. Our foremost historian of the West, Richard White, never content to “print the legend,” collaborates here with his son, a talented photographer, in excavating the layers of legend built into California’s landscapes. Together they expose the bedrock of the past, and the history they uncover is astonishing.
Jesse White’s evocative photographs illustrate the sites of Richard’s historical investigations. A vista of Drakes Estero conjures the darkly amusing story of the Drake Navigators Guild and its dubious efforts to establish an Anglo-Saxon heritage for California. The restored Spanish missions of Los Angeles frame another origin story in which California’s native inhabitants, civilized through contact with friars, gift their territories to white settlers. But the history is not so placid. A quiet riverside park in the Tulare Lake Basin belies scenes of horror from when settlers in the 1850s transformed native homelands into American property. Near the lake bed stands a small marker commemorating the Mussel Slough massacre, the culmination of a violent struggle over land titles between local farmers and the Southern Pacific Railroad in the 1870s. Tulare is today a fertile agricultural county, but its population is poor and unhealthy. The California Dream lives elsewhere. The lake itself disappeared when tributary rivers were rerouted to deliver government-subsidized water to big agriculture and cities. But climate change ensures that it will be back—the only question is when.
This original, deeply researched history shows the transcontinentals to be pivotal actors in the making of modern America. But the triumphal myths of the golden spike, robber barons larger than life, and an innovative capitalism all die here. Instead we have a new vision of the Gilded Age, often darkly funny, that shows history to be rooted in failure as well as success.
The essays, related to one another by their concern with how power is exercised in, over, and by western places, cover a wide range of times and topics, from 18th-century Spanish New Mexico to 19th-century British Columbia to 20th-century Sun Valley and Los Angeles. They encompass analyses of the concept and rhetoric of race, theoretical speculations on gender and powerlessness, and insights on the causes of current environmental crises.
But what of Leif Ericsson? What of St. Brendan? Who inscribed that anguished message on the Kensington Rune Stone? And who was The Westford Knight?
We are sure that Columbus made it to San Salvador – and back. And the Icelandic Saga shores up faith in Leif Ericsson’s voyage to North America, although scholarly opinion of the Vinland map seems to change every 10 years or so. St. Brendan’s adventure has been pretty generally dismissed as mere myth- as if myth could not be rooted in truth. And the case of the Kensington Rune Stone continues to generate controversy, despite an impressive accumulation of evidence, both environmental and linguistic.
And then there is the Westford Knight.
In 1954, the late Frank Glynn uncovered the figure of a knight in full armor incised on a slab of glacial rock along a roadside in Westford, Massachusetts. The Knight’s helmet, sword and shield all date to a specific decade in the evolution of armor and arms. And the emblem on the shield represents the armorial bearings of Clan Gunn, a noble family based in Scotland’s County Caithness.
The figure is, in fact, a classic military effigy, a type of monument commonly found in ancient gravesites in Scotland and in the north of England.
So what was the Knight doing here?
Facts cited in this little book suggest that The Westford Knight sailed westward with his high-born kinsman, Henry Sinclair, baron of Rosslyn and Earl of Orkney, in the service of The Lady King. The author presents the evidence: THESE STONES BEAR WITNESS. The verdict is for the reader to decide.
Based on meticulous research of Toronto's postwar plans and supplemented by dozens of interviews, Planning Toronto provides a comprehensive and lively explanation of how Toronto's postwar plans -- city, metropolitan, and regional -- came to be, who devised them, and what impact they had. When it comes to the history of urban planning, the question may not be whether a particular plan was good or bad but whether in the end it made a difference. As White demonstrates, in Toronto's case planning did matter -- just not always as expected.