When U.S. citizens first crossed into the American West at the beginning of the nineteenth century, they entered a land populated by more than a million American Indians and which had been partly explored and thinly settled by the Spanish. Euro-Americans knew almost nothing of this vast region and few individuals were willing to venture there. Description PDF
Detailed Schedule PDF
NEH Application Instructions
Required Reading PDF
Recommended Readings PDF
Faculty PDF
The federal government helped Euro-Americans settle in the West and exploit western resources by exploring and mapping the area as well as by subduing and subverting its Indian inhabitants. At every step, agents of the federal government documented this conquest in print and pictures, creating an American narrative. Although the tale of the rugged western individual became part of this narrative, in effect, the federal government was crucial in building the West. Conversely, involvement in the West enhanced the power, reach and complexity of the federal government and was important in the evolution of the federal polity.

Five-week college teacher summer institute that brings twenty-five teachers, graduate students and scholars of western U.S. history to George Mason University to study aspects of the federal government’s influence in this history. Participants will work with and learn from Washington-area and visiting scholars including Professor Elliott West, one of the principle faculty members; Professor Patricia Limerick, who The Johnson Center is the campus center and home to various eateries as well as the Johnson Library.will open the institute; and Professor Richard White, who will lecture on and lead a discussion on western railroads. Participants will visit and work with staff at The Library of Congress, the National Archives, several Smithsonian museums, the Department of the Interior, and the Mexican Cultural Institute. They will work with the latest digital tools and resources from George Mason’s Center for History and New Media, as well as the digital and hard-copy resources of federal government institutions and agencies. The institute will help participants extend their own research, enrich the courses that they teach, propose new courses, enrich or develop new museum or archival exhibitions, and better guide students who wish to work in this area.

The institute will concentrate on four major themes of U.S. western history in which the federal government played a major role: exploration and mapping of the West, the settlement of diverse groups in the West, the evolution of western identities, and the visual presentation of the west. Each participant will create a project that addresses a specific research topic relating to one of the themes or, alternatively, describe how work in these areas can enhance his or her teaching. These projects may be a draft of a scholarly article, a proposal for book length research, a new course syllabus, a revision of an existing syllabus, a plan for a museum or archival exhibition, or a digital project (website, blog, or other digital project. More detailed descriptions of the themes and the schedule of the institute are available in the “Description PDF” and “Detailed Schedule PDF”.