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Basque Immigrants and Nevada's Sheep Industry

Geopolitics and the Making of an Agricultural Workforce, 1880-1954

Iker Saitua (author)

ISBN: 9781943859993

Publication Date: May 2019

Format: Paperback

Also available as: Hardback  

Offers a rich and complex exploration of the history of Basque immigration to the rangelands of Nevada and the interior West. The book looks critically at the Basque sheepherders in the American West and more broadly at the modern history of American foreign relations with Spain after the Second World War.
£52.95

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Basque Immigrants and Nevada's Sheep Industry is a rich and complex exploration of the history of Basque immigration to the rangelands of Nevada and the interior West. It looks critically at the Basque sheepherders in the American West and more broadly at the modern history of American foreign relations with Spain after the Second World War.

Between the 1880s and the 1950s, the western open-range sheep industry was the original economic attraction for Basque immigrants. This engaging study tracks the development of the Basque presence in the American West, providing deep detail about the sheepherders' history, native and local culture, the challenges they faced, and the changing conditions under which the Basques lived and worked. Saitua also shows how Basque immigrant sheepherders went from being a marginalized labor group to a desirable, high-priced workforce in response to the constant demand for their labor power.

As the twentieth century progressed, the geopolitical tide in America began to change. In 1924, the Restrictive Immigration Act resulted in a truncated labor supply from the Basque Country in Spain. During the Great Depression and the Second World War, the labor shortage became acute. In response, Senator Patrick McCarran from Nevada lobbied on behalf of his wool-growing constituency to open immigration doors for Basques, the most desirable laborers for tending sheep in remote places. Subsequently, Cold War international tensions offered opportunities for a reconciliation between the United States and Francisco Franco, despite Spain's previous sympathy with the Axis powers.

This fresh portrayal shows how Basque immigrants became the backbone of the sheep industry in Nevada. It also contributes to a wider understanding of the significance of Basque immigration by exploring the role of Basque agricultural labor in the United States, the economic interests of Western ranchers, and McCarran's diplomacy as catalysts that eventually helped bring Spain into the orbit of western democracies.
Illustrations 8 tables
Pages 252
Dimensions 229 x 152 x 25
Date Published 30 May 2019
Publisher University of Nevada Press
Series The Basque Series
Subject/s Regional & national history   History of the Americas   Social & cultural history   Migration, immigration & emigration   Animal husbandry   Industrial relations  
  • Note for Users ix
  • Introduction: The Basque Frontier of the American West 1
  • Part I: After the Sheep Rush
  • 1. The Promises of the Silver State: The Development of the Sheep Industry in Nevada, 1850–1900 29
    2. Becoming Herders: Basque Immigration, Labor, and Settlement in Nevada, 1880–1910 54
  • Part II: The Struggle for Legitimacy
  • 3. Encroaching Upon Forbidden Ground: Basque Immigrant Sheepherders and the Creation of National Forests in Nevada 83
    4. "Desirable Immigrants": Socio-Economic Ambivalence and Basque Labor in Nevada's Sheep Industry, 1910–1939 111
  • Part III: The Making of a Good Sheepherder
  • 5. "Grasping at a Straw": The Basque Labor Shortage in the Nevada and Western Sheep Industry during the Second World War 151
  • 6. The Indispensable Basque Sheepherder: Senator Patrick McCarran and the Sheep Lobby, the Exclusion of Mexicans, and the Recruitment of Basque Immigrants in the Western Sheep Industry during WWII 179
  • 7. The Basque Immigrant Sheepherder Question and U.S.-Spanish Relations during the early Cold War, 1945–1954 215
  • Acknowledgments 265
  • Bibliography 267
  • About the Author 287
  • Index 289
Iker Saitua is a Basque Government Postdoctoral Fellow in History at the University of California, Riverside and the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU). He is a native of the Basque Country and a historian of the Basque Country and the United States.

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