Peace and Friendship by Stephen Aron

Oxford University Press

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Peace and Friendship: An Alternative History of the American West by Stephen Aron

For over 35 years, the dominant histories of the American West have been narratives of horrific conflicts. Framed in terms of empire building, these histories use modern constructs of ethnic cleansing and genocide to reckon the costs of centuries of conquest and settler colonialism. This vocabulary, and the interpretation it supports, sharply contrasts with older accounts of the "winning of the West," which had exulted in the triumph of civilization over savagery, making America great -- and great again. As dark and as bloody as western grounds have often been however, there were also important episodes of concord, instances of barriers breached, accords reached, and of people overcoming their differences as opposed to being overcome by them. Aron traces the origins of these episodes and thoughtfully considers the factors that led to their ultimate undoing. 

Featuring well-known figures such as Daniel Boone, William Clark, and Wyatt Earp, 
Peace and Friendship highlights locales where unexpectedly peaceful relations occurred, examining the particular circumstances that gave way to concord. These instances of peace may not have been long-lived, but what is critical is that the mainstream history of conflict and the alternative history of concord play out on the same historical plain (or plane). Take, for example, the shaky cohabitation that occurred in the Clatsop encampment, the terminal point of Lewis and Clark's westward expedition. The peace with the Clatsop tribe would not last, as the friendships and alliances struck up were forged in the interest of commercial advantage and survival, and eventually ended in theft. But examining the instance of cohabitation itself deepens our understanding of how the West came to be: through colonization, violence, misunderstanding, and, surprisingly, at times, peace.

About the Author

Stephen Aron is Professor Emeritus of History at UCLA and President and CEO of the Autry Museum of the American West in Los Angeles. He is the author of The American West: A Very Short IntroductionHow the West Was Lost: The Transformation of Kentucky from Daniel Boone to Henry Clay and American Confluence: The Missouri Frontier from Borderland to Border State, the co-author of Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World from the Beginnings of Humankind to the Present, and the co-editor of Trading Cultures: The Worlds of Western Merchants.

Product Specifications

Published by Oxford University Press, 2022. Hardback, 320 pages.