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Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West

Goetzmann, William H.

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ISBN 10: 0876111355 / ISBN 13: 9780876111352
Published by Texas State Historical Association, Austin, 1993
Condition: Fine Hardcover
From Steven G. Jennings (Spring Branch, TX, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Looks and feels like new. Dj protected in mylar. Flawless collectible copy. Winner of Pulitzer Prize in 1967. Fred H. and Ella Mae Moore Texas History Reprint Series. Signed by author on half-title page at his appearance at Book People in Austin on April 16, 2009. Bookseller Inventory # 005389

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the...

Publisher: Texas State Historical Association, Austin

Publication Date: 1993

Binding: Hard Cover

Book Condition: Fine

Dust Jacket Condition: Fine

Signed: Signed by Author

Edition: Reprint

About this title


In this classic work, Goetzmann argues that the exploration of the American West was not a series of haphazard adventures motivated by personal gain, but rather a series of carefully planned missions to promote the national good. He draws on the diaries and letters of explorers to contrast the early American expeditions, sponsored by the federal government to promote national development, with private British ventures, such as the Hudson’s Bay Company, which sought commercial gain.

Meriwether Lewis and William Clark were the first explorers with a broad and explicit sense of national purpose, setting out in 1804 with instructions from President Thomas Jefferson to collect information “covering the whole range of natural history from geology to Indian vocabularies.” And as Lewis and Clark traveled toward the American Northwest, William Dunbar and Dr. George Hunter journeyed south to collect information on the newly acquired Louisiana Territory.

Two major eras of Western exploration followed the one launched by Lewis and Clark: the period of settlement and investment (1845–1860) and the era of the great surveys (1860–1900). During the first of these, explorers such as John B. Weller and John Russell Bartlett became political diplomats as well as discoverers as they surveyed the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. During the second period, explorers were no longer discoverers or diplomats, but academic scientists, such as Josiah Dwight Whitney, whose philosophy influenced twentieth-century attitudes toward conservation and the environment.

From the Back Cover:

From early mountain men searching for routes through the Rockies to West Point soldier-engineers conducting topographical expeditions, the exploration of the American West mirrored the development of a fledgling nation. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning Exploration and Empire, William H. Goetzmann analyzes the special role the explorer played in shaping the vast region once called "the Great American Desert". According to Goetzmann, the exploration of the West was not a haphazard series of discoveries, but a planned - even programmed - activity in which explorers, often armed with instructions from the federal government, gathered information that would support national goals for the new lands. As national needs and the frontier's image changed, the West itself was rediscovered by successive generations of explorers, a process that in turn helped shape its culture. Nineteenth-century western exploration, Goetzmann writes, can be divided into three stages. The first, beginning with the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1804, was marked by the need to collect practical information, such as the locations of the best transportation routes through the wilderness. Then came the era of settlement and investment - the drive to fulfill the Manifest Destiny of a nation beginning to realize what immense riches lay beyond the Mississippi. The final stage involved a search for knowledge of a different kind, as botanists and paleontologists, ethnographers and engineers hunted intensively for scientific information in the "frontier laboratory". This last phase also saw a rethinking of the West's place in the national scheme; it was a time of nascent conservation movements and public policy discussions aboutthe region's future. Drawing on a wealth of primary sources, Goetzmann offers a masterful overview of the opening of the West, as well as a fascinating study of the nature of exploration and its consequences for civilization.

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