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Journal/Book Title/Conference

Utah State University Faculty Honor Lectures


The Faculty Association and Utah State University Press

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For a quarter of a century I have been pursuing, in what I sometimes fear is a muddling quixotic way, the identity of Utah and of regions within it. This quest entered a new and direct phase a few years back when I was asked to write the Bicentennial History of Utah. As I toiled over the book, one of those obvious truths that now and then surface in the consciousness of each of us struck me with great force; in 1776 Utah had no practical existence whatever for Americans. Of course, the geographical region existed, but in what I called a process of becoming Americans responded to the possibilities and limitations afforded by nature in the decades after the Revolutionary War to create a part of the United States. Utah first became a region in the comprehensions of a handful of mountain men; then, as it took on political meaning, it became a territory; and by 1896, a hundred and twenty years after the Revolution, it had become a state with clear social, political, religious, and economic meanings. For me, at least, a coherent identity had become apparent for Utah in the American context. Then, as I turned to the twentieth century, the consciousness of the state's distinct identity seemed gradually to slip away.


This work made publicly available electronically on August 5, 2011.