An outstanding and readable introduction to the social history of westward migration and homesteading in the US in the 1840--70s. The text of this entry in the Settling the West series is a compilation of perspicaciously selected excerpts from the diaries and letters of settlers, mainly women, stitched into a continuous narrative. It begins with the preparations for the journey, follows the migrants across the plains and over the mountains, then describes the process of homesteading in all its facets. Since most of the information in the book comes from documents of an intimate nature, plenty of attention is paid to the life of the spirit, leaving readers with a vivid impression of the psychology of the settler. Apart from punctuating the narrative here and there with historical road signs, Harvey remains in the background; he supplies introductions and transitions, but allows the sources to speak for themselves, and ""politically correct"" editorializing is minimal. Accompanied by full-color and black-and-white photographs and illustrations, a coherent, balanced picture of the homesteader.