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Peace and Friendship

An Alternative History of the American West

Stephen Aron

Publication Date - 26 July 2022

ISBN: 9780197622780

320 pages
6 1/8 x 9 1/4 inches

In Stock

A new understanding of how the West came to be.


A new understanding of how the West came to be

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.


  • Shines a light on a facet of American frontiers obscured by mythology and by the tilt of old and new scholarship.
  • Provides readers with fresh perspectives about several of the most celebrated frontier heroes and the places associated with them
  • Provides new perspectives on well-known figures such as Daniel Boone, William Clark, and Wyatt Earp

About the Author(s)

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 Introduction, How 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.


"Is the story of the American West inevitably a tale of violence and exploitation? Well, mostly, but not always, and the exceptions matter. In Peace and Friendship, Stephen Aron explores fascinating historical interludes of accommodation, convergence, and harmony among people at odds. Familiar characters and places, from Daniel Boone and Lewis and Clark to the Oregon Trail and Dodge City, are here, but we will never again see them the same way. Aronâs unconventional view of the Western past may even help us imagine our way to a less traumatic future." -- Virginia Scharff, Distinguished Professor of History Emerita, University of New Mexico

"Peace and Friendship is a brave book that stands apart in its focus on those moments of frontier compromise and comity (however fleeting) that have typically been overlooked or dismissed, especially since the emergence of the New Western History of the 1980s.ÂSteve Aron has deftly gathered a handful of famous and unfamiliar episodesâspanning an enormous stretch of time and space, from the Ohio Valley to the Great Plains to the Pacific Northwestâto tell a story that is more layered and complex than the now-standard narrative emphasizing relentless conquest and decline." -- Andrew R. Graybill, Professor of History and Director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies, Southern Methodist University

Table of Contents

    Chapter One: Chillicothe - Forget What Happened
    Chapter Two: Apple Creek -- Rising
    Chapter Three: Fort Clatsop - A Pacific Coast
    Chapter Four: Apple Creek - Falling
    Chapter Five: Chimney Rock - Uncircle the Wagons
    Chapter Six: Dodge City - Don't Shoot First
    Final Lessons