This paper compares the levels of violence and law breaking on the cattle frontiers of the northern Great Plains of North America and the Northern Territory of Australia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It argues that various conditions peculiar to frontiers such as sparse settlement, gender imbalance, the absence of infrastructure, the weakness of traditional Old World institutions, and racism lowered respect for authority and made law enforcement extremely difficult. The author suggests that the truth of the latter thesis is bolstered by the fact that at the same moment in history the people in these two societies discarded conventional rules and values as they built their pastoral industry—literally a world apart.

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