Hal Rothman: Western Writer and Historian, Dies at 48

Historians in the News

Hal K. Rothman, the acclaimed Western historian, writer and former chair of the Univerity of Nevada-Las Vegas history department died Sunday night after a year and a half battle with Lou Gehrig’s disease.

Hal, who was widely considered one of the nation’s experts on the New West, tourism and post-industrial economies, wrote here at NewWest.Net about what he called “a hodgepodge of urban issues, environmental critique, assaults on federal agencies and their tormentors, and a few other things.”

Hal’s voice was one to be reckoned with. He wrote about water shortages, fire policy, public land politics and growth with the context only a dedicated historian could. He was unfailingly direct and sure of his words, which for this writer in particular, was a lesson in self-confidence and a testament to the knowledge and research it takes to truly dissect an issue with clarity and depth.

He had a knack for making even the most academic stories human and real and I think that’s why his writings—here and elsewhere (he wrote extensively for High Country News and the Las Vegas Sun)—resonated with such a force. He thoroughly enjoyed making people think past old ideas and delighted in watching people chime in on his columns in comment threads.

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