This classic description of the interaction between the vast central plains of America and the people who lived there has, since its first publication in 1931, been one of the most influential, widely known, and controversial works in western history. Arguing that "the Great Plains environment...constitutes a geographic unity whose influences have been so powerful as to put a characteristic mark upon everything that survives within its borders," Webb singles out the revolver, barbed wire, and the windmill as evidence of the new phase of civilization required for settlement of that arid, treeless region. Webb draws on history, anthropology, geography, demographics, climatology, and economics to substantiate his thesis that the 98th meridian constituted an institutional fault - comparable to a geological fault - at which "practically every institution that was carried across it was either broken and remade or else greatly altered". "One of the most original, suggestive, and thoughtful contributions to the science of history in recent years". (Henry Steele Commager).
"To the merits of sound scholarship and industrious research are to be added the possession of an easy and attractive style and abundant evidence of first-hand acquaintance with the conditions of Western Life. It is not too much to say that anyone who wishes to understand either the history or the present problems and state of mind of the Great Plains region will find this book indispensable". ("The New York Times"). One of the unquestionably major historians of the American West, Walter Prescott Webb taught at London University, Oxford, and the University of Texas. He was the author of a number of highly provocative books, including "The Great Frontier" and this, his most famous study, "The Great Plains".