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Devil's Bargains
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In the post-Civil War years, Americans turned west to fulfill their dreams of a Manifest Destiny. Soon even common folks could travel to the West in large numbers, thanks to the railroad and then the automobile, which made popular attractions like Santa Fe, Las Vegas, and the national parks, ski areas, and dude ranches accessible to everyone. Eventually, tourism transformed the Western communities it touched. Rothman (history, Univ. of Nevada, Las Vegas; Reopening the American West, Univ. of Arizona, 1998) examines this transformation, systematically addressing the social, cultural, environmental, and economic costs of tourism. Another interpreter of the "new Western history," he sees the West as a colony of Eastern industrial capital. Building on Earl Pomeroy's In Search of the Golden West (1957; Univ. of Nebraska, 1990. reprint) this is a vital and significant addition to the literature. Recommended for all libraries, especially those with Western Americana collections.‘Patricia Ann Owens, Wabash Valley Coll., Mt. Carmel, IL

Tourism has been vital to the economic health of the American West for most of this century. In a penetrating look at the social, economic and psychological dynamics shaping the region's modern identity, Rothman, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas history professor, ably and exhaustively demonstrates that the tourism industry has also exacted high costs from many of the communities that have become the West's most popular travel destinations. The West derives much of its appeal as a tourist attraction, Rothman explains, from its place in the American cultural imagination as a kind of exotic elsewhere, a refuge from the postindustrial urban world. Such perceptions pressure Western communities to stay frozen in time, he maintains, and play up their quaintness. Consequently, tourist demands, not the needs of local residents, play the biggest role in determining the community's values and way of life. Moreover, even as it bolsters the local economy, the tourist industry mires many locals in low-paying, dead-end jobs. Thus, Rothman concludes, "Tourism is the most colonial of activities... because of its psychic and social impact on people and their places." As insightful and deftly argued as recent books on the region by Robert Kaplan and Timothy Egan, Rothman's study traces the history of Western tourism from the late 19th century to the present, exploring in comprehensive and eminently readable detail the ways in which the tourist industry has shaped communities as diverse as Santa Fe, Aspen and Las Vegas. Each has been transformed from a small, obscure town to a mythic destination, he argues, often leaving local residents trapped inside the myth that the tourists' imagination creates. Illustrations not seen by PW. (Oct.)

"Devil's Bargains is a breakthrough book. It becomes the starting point for all future studies of not only tourism but also Western identity and will be integral to discussions on colonialism in the West and Western development. It is valuable for both the range of the material it covers and the depth and nuanced analysis of its case studies, but it does much more than this. It creates a language and a structure for the study of tourism--neonatives, recreational tourism, cultural tourism--that will quickly be adopted by other scholars and structure their analysis. Should appeal to a wide popular audience."--Richard White, author of It's Your Misfortune and None of My Own: A History of the American West"Once pillaged for its raw materials, the American West is now looted for its landscapes and historical auras. Giant resort and gaming corporations are rapidly transforming the canonical frontier into a neon theme park, pockmarked with casinos, prisons, trophy homes, and urban slums. Tourism, as Hal Rothman demonstrates in this brilliant and disturbing book, is the price of the land's very soul."--Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz: Excavating the Future of Los Angeles "Intricately researched, wonderfully detailed, and profoundly disturbing."--American Historical Review"An important book filled with cultural insights and a bold interpretive model."--H-Net Reviews "Tourism has been vital to the economic health of the American West for most of this century. In a penetrating look at the social, economic, and psychological dynamics shaping the region's modern identity, Rothman demonstrates that the tourism industry has also exacted high costs from many of the communities that have become the West's most popular travel destinations. As insightful and deftly argued as Robert Kaplan's An Empire Wilderness and Timothy Egan's Lasso the Wind, Rothman's study traces the history of Western tourism from the late nineteenth century to the present, exploring in comprehensive and eminently readable detail the ways in which the tourist industry has shaped communities as diverse as Santa Fe, Aspen and Las Vegas."--Publishers Weekly "This remarkable book is both instructive and entertaining. It should be of great interest to anyone who cares about the West and wonders why its best places seem to change so rapidly and so completely."--Bloomsbury Review

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