The New Western History and Mormon History

The leading historians of the “New Western History”—Patricia Limerick, Richard White, Don Worster and William Cronon—have dismantled Frederick Jackson Turner’s thesis that the American character was shaped by pioneers coming to virgin land. According to Limerick et al., pioneers came west to a land already occupied, by Indians, conquered them, then marginalized them. In this paper, I examine how Mormon history—the view of Mormon pioneers making the desert blossom like a rose, with Utah Indians seen as a passing annoyance, when they’re remembered at all—might fit into the New Western history.

Todd Compton