Montana State University

Free public lecture about Malone's contributions to Western history set for Sept. 29

September 19, 2011 -- Anne Cantrell, MSU News Service


Michael Malone was Montana State University's 10th president and one of the state's preeminent historians.   High-Res Available

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
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A free public lecture detailing the late Michael P. Malone's contributions to Western history, including how Malone's work challenged a common misconception about Montana and the American West, is set for 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 29, at the Museum of the Rockies.

William Lang, a history professor at Portland State University and former colleague of Malone's, will deliver "Mike Malone's Montana: A Mostly Political Landscape." A public reception will precede the lecture at 6:30 p.m.

Malone -- who was Montana State University's 10th president and one of the state's preeminent historians -- believed a common focus on "frontier" events, such as Custer's Last Stand or the Lewis and Clark expedition, didn't allow for a full understanding of the state, according to Lang.

"He thought this was a limiting factor in (people's) understanding of the world," Lang said.

For example, Malone's book "The Battle for Butte" -- which covers the influence of copper as part of the political history of Montana -- challenges traditional Montana lore and Western stories.

The book "takes the Western story of High Noon, and all the other stories we view as Western, and puts them into a corporate context," Lang said.

Lang noted that Malone also challenged the view that Montana's modern history is one of colonialism.

"He wanted to expand the view of Montana so that it wasn't seen as a story about metal, mining and capitalism...and he pretty well succeeded," Lang said.

Lang's lecture and the preceding reception are part of a two-day celebration at MSU honoring Malone for his accomplishments as a historian and as the university's president.

A dedication ceremony for the newly renamed "Michael P. Malone Centennial Mall" will be held at 2 p.m. Friday, Sept. 30, on the mall south of Montana Hall on the MSU campus. If the weather is poor, the ceremony will be held in SUB Ballroom A. Immediately following the ceremony, a reception will be held in the SUB's Leigh Lounge.

Malone, who was raised in Pomeroy, Wash., completed his bachelor's degree in history at Gonzaga University and earned a doctorate in American Studies from Washington State University in 1966.

He spent a year at Texas A&M University before joining the history department at Montana State in 1967. In 1973, Malone became a full history professor at MSU. He was named chairman of the Department of History and Philosophy in 1976, dean of graduate studies in 1979 and interim vice president for academic affairs in 1988. He was selected president of MSU in 1991, following a national search. He served until his death in 1999 of a heart attack at age 59.

Malone also authored nine books and 20 articles during his career. His best-known works include "The Montana Past: An Anthology", co-authored in 1969, and "Montana: A History of Two Centuries," a definitive history of the state written in conjunction with Lang and the late Richard Roeder, also a former MSU history professor, which was published in 1976 and revised in 1991. At the time of his death, Malone had a 10th book under contract to Yale University Press, a major work destined to reconceptualize western American history since 1930.

Susan Fraser, (406) 994-2341 or sfraser@montana.edu