The myth of the cowboy
How did the lone cowboy hero become such a potent figure in American culture? In an extract from his final book Fractured Times, the late Eric Hobsbawm follows a trail from cheap novels and B-westerns to Ronald Reagan
There is thus no shortage of potential cowboy myths in the western world. And, in fact, practically all the groups I have mentioned have generated macho and heroic semi-barbarian myths of one kind or another in their own countries and sometimes even beyond. But none of them has generated a myth with serious international popularity, let alone one that can compare, even faintly, with the fortunes of the North American cowboy. Why?