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Explore the North American West

What is ‘the West’? Cowboys riding into the sunset? Sweeping plains of sagebrush and snow-topped mountains stretching for miles? Surfers and big cities along the coast?

The answer to all of these questions is yes. However, the stories of the West that capture our imaginations are often born of myth and perpetuated by collective imaginings and re-imaginings. Through our course on the American West and our initiatives, the Bill Lane Center strives to understand the complicated history of this region and spearhead the conversations about the unique challenges it faces. To begin our conversation, we must first answer a simple question: Where does the West begin and what does it constitute?

Defining the West

What is the West? Learn about interpretations of a vast region that encompasses 11 U.S. states and reaches across Canada and Mexico.

Experience the West

The West is best experienced in person. Our resource guide to activities and events in the San Francisco Bay Area, California, and the American West.

Other Centers of the West

The Bill Lane Center for the American West is part of a generation of regionally and sub-regionally focused academic organizations promoting thought and dialogue on  western North America.

‘Walking the Farm’


Written in collaboration with the author Tom DeMund, our guide to the Stanford campus and beyond is available for purchase.

Issues of the West

The Center is a nexus of scholarship, research, and journalism on important topics of the West. Watch for reports, multimedia, data, and other resources on issues from public lands ownership and tribal sovereignty to rural western life.