by Natalie Koch
A revelatory new history of the colonization of the American West
**Longlisted for the 2023 Cundill History Prize**
The iconic deserts of the American southwest could not have been colonized and settled without the help of desert experts from the Middle East. For example: In 1856, a caravan of thirty-three camels arrived in Indianola, Texas, led by a Syrian cameleer the Americans called “Hi Jolly.” This “camel corps,” the US government hoped, could help the army secure the new southwest swath of the country just wrested from Mexico. Though the dream of the camel corps – and sadly, the camels – died, the idea of drawing on expertise, knowledge, and practices from the desert countries of the Middle East did not.