UM News Service
MISSOULA – For 16 years historian K. Ross Toole taught a course titled Montana and the West, a class that was frequently referred to as “one of the most popular and influential courses at the University of Montana.” Between 1965 and 1981, hundreds of students took the course each semester, and nearly 1,700 students enrolled in Montana and the West in the final year Toole taught.
That year Toole’s lectures were recorded by MQTV, a nonprofit public interest media group, to be televised around the state. These recordings now are available online from UM’s Mansfield Library at https://scholarworks.umt.edu/toolesmontana/.
MQTV edited Toole’s lectures into 30-minute presentations illustrated with maps, graphs and photographs. Toole’s writings and lectures often focused on what historian Harry Fritz called “themes of extractive development and corporate domination.” MQTV titled the series “K. Ross Toole’s Montana” to clearly show this is Montana history “as filtered through the mind of one of its most impassioned and dedicated students.” The series of 20 lectures was released in 1985.
Kenneth Ross Toole was born in Missoula in 1920. He received his bachelor’s and master’s in history from UM and earned a Ph.D. in history from UCLA. He served as the director of the Montana Historical Society from 1951 to 1958 and wrote several books about Montana, including “A History of Montana” with Merrill Burlingame in 1957, “Montana: An Uncommon Land” in 1959 and “The Rape of the Great Plains: Northwestern America, Cattle and Coal” in 1974. In 1965, he was appointed the A.B. Hammond Professor of Western History at UM, a position he held until his death from cancer in August 1981.
MQTV recorded the lectures in 1981 to bring “information about our past into the decisions of many Montanans about our present – and our future.”
Toole’s son, Ken Toole Jr., said, “K. Ross Toole’s unique ability to provide historical context to the issues we face has been sorely missed. Our whole family is very pleased the Mansfield Library has arranged to make this video series available to the public.”