State Historical Society becomes History Nebraska

July 15, 2018

The former Nebraska State Historical Society is getting right to the point these days, promoting its new, shorter name, History Nebraska, while publishing a book titled “A Brief History of Nebraska.” The paperback by Ronald C. Naugle tells Nebraska’s story from prehistoric times up to the present in only 143 pages.

History Nebraska saw a need for the short book to introduce readers to the state’s history, says editor David Bristow.

“We have the largest collection of Nebraska historical artifacts anywhere,” Bristow says. “We’ve been publishing our quarterly magazine ‘Nebraska History’ for 100 years. And our website at history.nebraska.gov is the most extensive online resource about the state’s history. So we’re committed to good scholarship and to telling lots of stories. But where do you begin? That’s what this book is about.”

For author Ron Naugle, the book distills decades of research. A professor emeritus at Nebraska Wesleyan University, Naugle is co-author (with John J. Montag and James C. Olson) of the 549-page “History of Nebraska,” published by the University of Nebraska Press. Naugle also chairs the Nebraska Hall of Fame Commission.

“Ron wanted to tell the story for a more casual reader,” Bristow says. “He wrote this as an entry point for people’s curiosity about the past. His chapters are mostly five pages or less, but he still hits the big issues and major themes. Adults or students can read it in a few sittings.”

Nebraska has been inundated by ancient seas, carved by glaciers, and settled by ancient cultures who learned to survive in a land prone to extremes of climate.

As a state, Nebraska was born out of the Civil War, shaped by railroads and built by immigrants. Settlers were drawn by promises of free land and abundant rain. They endured droughts and economic depressions. They fought for political reforms, fought world wars and sometimes fought each other.

Along the way, Nebraskans chose a unique form of government and re-invented their communities under new conditions. A Brief History of Nebraska is a story of continual change, the back story of the place and people we know today.

The $14.95 book is available at bookstores and online booksellers, or directly from History Nebraska at its sites (in Lincoln at the Nebraska History Museum and the State Capitol, also at Chimney Rock and Fort Robinson), and by phone at 402-471-3447. Readers can learn more about the book and read an online excerpt at history.nebraska.gov/publications.

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