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The Structure of World History
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Maureen O'Hara

How Cities Won the WestHow Cities Won the West

Four Centuries of Urban Change in Western North America

Carl Abbott

Narrated by Rhett Samuel Price

Available from Audible

Book published by University of New Mexico Press

Cities rather than individual pioneers have been the driving force in the settlement and economic development of the western half of North America. Throughout the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries, western urban centers served as starting points for conquest and settlement. As these frontier cities matured into metropolitan centers, they grew from imitators of eastern culture and outposts of eastern capital into independent sources of economic, cultural, and intellectual change.

From the Gulf of Alaska to the Mississippi River and from the binational metropolis of San Diego-Tijuana to the Prairie Province capitals of Canada, Carl Abbott explores the complex urban history of western Canada and the United States. The evolution of western cities from stations for exploration and military occupation to contemporary entry points for migration and components of a global economy reminds us that it is cities that "won the West." And today, as cultural change increasingly moves from west to east, Abbott argues that the urban West represents a new center from which emerging patterns of behavior and changing customs will help to shape North America in the twenty-first century.

Carl Abbott is professor of urban studies and planning at Portland State University and the coeditor of the Pacific Historical Review. He is the author of numerous books on urban history and the development of cities in the United States.


“For anyone searching for a complete and upbeat look at how the West was won—and what won it—there is no better explanation than this one.”

Las Vegas CityLife

“Abbott's contribution to our understanding of the urban West is truly impressive.”

Annals of Wyoming

“Exquisitely crafted...Highly recommended.”


“Ably conceived and especially readable.”

The Journal of American History

“Throughout this sweeping authoritative argument are numerous wonderful details, lucid explanations, and colorful references to novels about western cities—the Great Plains included.”

Great Plains Quarterly

“The writing is enthusiastic, even exuberant at times, making the book unusually engaging and accessible. How Cities Won the West is, simply put, the best brief introduction to the urban West currently available. It should be on a short list of books to read for anyone seriously interested in the history of the American West."”

Nebraska History

“To explain how western cities attained such prominence, this important book ranges widely across time, space, and subject. Indeed, one of Abbot's notable feats is to narrate coherently the development of cities across the western United States and Canada from the early eighteenth to the late twentieth century without flattening the differences between San Francisco, Phoenix, Tacoma, and Winnipeg.”

Montana the Magazine of Western History

“This is a wonderful book, beautifully written and expansive in scope.”

The Journal of Arizona History

How Cities Won the West is essential reading not just for scholars of the U.S. western experience, or those of the broader western North American experience, or even those of the U.S. urban experience, but for all scholars of cities.”

Technology and Culture

“The reading experience is like traveling on a whirlwind tour of the U.S. and Canadian wests with an extraordinarily knowledgeable and entertaining guide.”

New Mexico Historical Review

How Cities Won the West is arguably the best synthesis of the urban North American West to date.”

Oregon Historical Quarterly

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