Book Notice | BYU Studies

Book Notice

The Awkward State of Utah
September 14, 2017
Book Notice
The Awkward State of Utah
BYU Studies Staff

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The authors describe the era 1896 to 1945 as the “awkward adolescence” of Utah history. This period saw the pivotal change from an agrarian and inward-focused society to one that embraced mainstream America and global modernity. While historians such as Leonard Arrington, Thomas Alexander, and Ethan Yorgason have focused on the years 1890 to 1920 as the era of greatest change, Charles Peterson and Brian Cannon show that this discussion needs to include 1920 to 1945 because of the many social shifts that continued to reshape the state. During this time, democratization and efficiency through centralization of authority increased. Peterson and Cannon use Alan Trachtenberg’s term incorporation to encapsulate the many types of changes, including cultural, economic, technological, political, and religious factors (2).

With statehood, Utahns enlisted in American armed forces and signed up for the Spanish American War and the World Wars in large numbers. Enlisted men thus came into contact with diverse cultures and races and saw the ways in which some nationalities and minorities were excluded from voting and other basic rights, leading them to civil rights activism. The authors include discussions of labor violence, the Latino movement of the 1920s and ’30s, development of the Navajo reservation, women’s suffrage, and women entering the labor market.