Skip to main content

To The Inland Empire

March 2023
1min read

by Stewart L. Udall; photographs by Jerry Jacka; Doubleday: 222 pages.

In this book two separate stories—first, that of the early Spanish in America and, second, the specific explorations of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado—work together to challenge the standard view of America’s beginnings. Spain’s contribution to the exploration and settlement of the continent is vastly underrated, Udall contends; in fact, only grudgingly acknowledged, if at all. He suggests that the “ Mayflower folk move over and allow the authentic first families … to share their symbolic front-row pew.”

The historical blinders that filter out a century of our history, says Udall, were the handiwork of Richard Hakluyt, the English “evangelist-patriot” who loudly championed English exploration and colonization at a time when anti-Spanish sentiment ran high in Queen Elizabeth’s court. Hakluyt managed to muddle events, dates, and what individual nations were doing until his concept of the “European experience” was accepted. Even today most Anglo-Saxons believe that their ancestors were the principal explorers of the New World.

Udall grew up in St. Johns, Arizona, where Coronado had passed in 1540 on his misguided search for the seven golden cities of Cfbola. Always fascinated with the landmarks described by Coronado and his men, Udall has traced the discernible footsteps and puzzled out the routes that the conquistadors must have taken. Jerry Jacka’s beautiful photographs move along with the text, specifically illustrating the vast spaces, the pueblos, the petroglyphs, the vegetation that the explorers might have seen.

One of the Spaniards describes his first encounter with those “monstrous beasts”—buffalo—so plentiful that he compared them to the fish in the sea. Coronado’s men were the first to explore the awesome grasslands that covered the center of the North American continent. His expedition also gave the Plains Indians their first look at a horse, the animal that would, within a few generations, change their civilization.

Udall ends his forcefully argued reinterpretation of America’s earliest years with a suggestion that the quincentennial, in 1992, of Columbus’s first voyage, sponsored by the Iberian monarchs, would be a fine time to “widen our horizons and pluck our Spanish century from the wastebasket of history.”

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.


Stories published from "February 1988"

It’s not surprising that Democrats seek to wrap themselves in the Roosevelt cloak; what’s harder to understand is why so many Republicans do too. A distinguished historian explains.

Authored by: Ormonde De Kay

He claimed his critics didn’t like his work because it was “too noisy,” but he didn’t care what any of them said. George Luks’s determination to paint only what interested him was his greatest strength—and his greatest weakness.

Authored by: Otto Friedrich

The United States had promised black soldiers that they would be paid as much as whites. Sergeant Walker believed that promise.

Authored by: Timothy C. Forbes

It depends on whose interpretation of both history and the current crisis you believe. For one of America’s most prominent supply-side economists, the answer is yes.

Authored by: E. N. Coons

An astonishing saga of endurance and high courage told by a man who lived through it

Authored by: Neil A. Grauer

The dour radio comedian regarded his work as totally ephemeral, but a new generation of comics has built upon his foundations

Featured Articles

Rarely has the full story been told about how a famed botanist, a pioneering female journalist, and First Lady Helen Taft battled reluctant bureaucrats to bring Japanese cherry trees to Washington. 

The world’s most prominent actress risked her career by standing up to one of Hollywood’s mega-studios, proving that behind the beauty was also a very savvy businesswoman. 

Often thought to have been a weak president, Carter was strong-willed in doing what he thought was right, regardless of expediency or the political fallout.

Why have thousands of U.S. banks failed over the years? The answers are in our history and politics.

In his Second Inaugural Address, Abraham Lincoln embodied leading in a time of polarization, political disagreement, and differing understandings of reality.