Cadillac Desert: The American West and Its Disappearing Water Short Essay - Answer Key

Marc Reisner
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1. How have historians traditionally spent their focus in regard to the American West?

Historians of the West have typically focused on events that opened the great landscape of the American Desert to settlers. Such events included the Lewis and Clark Expedition, wars with the Indians of the Great Plains, and the Homestead Act of 1862.

2. How have new historians of the American West spent their focus differently than the traditionalists?

New historians of the American West have been employing a political environmentalism to develop an environmental history, which has led to a number of revisionist approaches to American West narratives.

3. What genre is Cadillac Desert? What does Marc Reisner reveal through his approach in the book?

Cadillac Desert is a revisionist history. Reisner’s focus on the creation of infrastructure to support Western settlement exposes a history, not of rugged individualism, but of the construction of a heavily subsidized and tremendously expensive "hydraulic society," founded on and maintained by the greed and competitiveness that is behind the American Dream.

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