Sweeney publishes book about the Dust Bowl

PLAINVIEW – While students hail the intriguing teaching style of Dr. Kevin Sweeney, some might find the topic of his new book a little dry. But that’s the point. Prelude to the Dust Bowl: Drought in the Nineteenth-Century Southern Plains is the culmination of 12 years of research by Dr. Sweeney, professor of geography and history at Wayland Baptist University.

Published by the University of Oklahoma Press, Prelude to the Dust Bowl takes a look at the historical significance of drought in the 1800s and how it affected the government’s response to the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.

“Of course, the Dust Bowl is very well known, but the droughts that occurred in the 1800s really set the stage for how the government reacts to the drought of the 1930s,” Sweeney said. “The government had a hands-off approach and then we saw the suffering, the dislocation, the crime associated with it. In the 1930s you get a rather radical change to that where the government does intervene and offer programs to people.”

Sweeney’s work reveals that the Dust Bowl was only one cycle in a series of droughts on the U.S. southern plains. He looks specifically at four periods in the 1800s and the role they played on settlement, migration and war on the plains.

Growing up on a farm in south-central Oklahoma, drought has always been of interest to Dr. Sweeney.

“Sitting on a tractor and watching it rain everywhere else but where we were really got me interested in drought,” he said.