Dust Bowl pp 27-58 | Cite as

Ideas: American Exceptionalism, Social Realism, Women, Deserts, Documentary, Soil, and Civilization

  • Janette-Susan Bailey
Part of the Palgrave Studies in World Environmental History book series (PSWEH)


This chapter describes how New Deal era storytellers constructed Dust Bowl narratives to raise an urgent national alarm and promote the need for soil conservation and “conservation mindedness” to address serious wind erosion (sand drift and dust storms) on the US Great Plains. It describes how, bolstered by a New Deal social reform agenda, a broad set of ideas can be seen to have converged in Dust Bowl narratives. The myth of American national exceptionalism and ideas of the frontier and the yeoman, a Great American Desert, “soil infinity,” and soil-fallen civilizations, ideas surrounding the developing documentary mode, social realism, ingrained ideas about women, theories of ecology, soil, deserts, and technological salvation converged to varying degrees and can be traced in US Dust Bowl narratives.


Soil Erosion Dust Storm Great Plain Wind Erosion Southern Great Plain 
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© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Janette-Susan Bailey
    • 1
  1. 1.University of South WalesPontypriddUK

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