American West and History

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Finding the West: Explorations with Lewis and Clark

James Ronda

One of the foremost historians of Lewis and Clark, Ronda grounds Finding the West in the insights and reflections he has gleaned from some twenty years of research and writing about this pivotal era. But above all else, Ronda's book is centered on stories and storytellers. As he writes: "This is a book about many storytellers. Their words are French-Canadian, Shoshone, New Hampshire English, Hidatsa, and Chinookan." Ronda documents not only the stories that Meriwether Lewis and William Clark offered about their "road across the continent," but also the large and important stories by and about the native peoples whose trails they followed and whose lands they described in their journals and reports and on their maps.

The beginning of the nineteenth century represents a time when America passed into a headlong rush for empire and when "the West" loomed large as a dream for some and a nightmare for others, an era that irrevocably shaped the new American nation in the two hundred years that followed. Whoever the storyteller in the aftermath of that encounter--native or newcomer--the stories all soon revolved around a common theme: the coming of the winds of change.
Ronda's masterful interpretation of the young Republic's fascination with the West is written with grace, narrative sweep, and a conviction that history should, above all else, engage and inform us.

"This is a really outstanding, important work."--Professor John L. Allen, University of Wyoming


Howard R. Lamar is Sterling Professor Emeritus of History at Yale and a former president of that university.

Martin Ridge is a senior research associate in the Henry E. Huntington Library. He has taught at San Diego State University, Indiana University, and the California Institute of Technology. He is the former editor of the Journal of American History and the past president of the Pacific Coast Branch of the American Historical Association and Western History Association. He is the author of numerous scholarly and review articles dealing with the American West. He is the coeditor of Histories of the American Frontier.

David J. Weber is The Robert and Nancy Dedman Professor of History and the Director of the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University.

James P. Ronda is H. G. Barnard Professor of Western American History at the University of Tulsa and past president of the Western History Association. Ronda is the author of many books, including Lewis and Clark Among the Indians, Beyond Lewis and Clark, and Jefferson's West.


". . . Finding the West: Explorations with Lewis and Clark is one of a handful of books that break out of the patriotic manacles that bind the expedition's historiography . . . one of the most innovative perspectives on the expedition. . . . It is among Ronda's most thoughtful and thought-provoking books. It is also his most imaginative take on the meaning of the expedition. . . . Ronda's perspective is novel, challenging and welcome."


Journal of the Early Republic

"Those who enjoy various views of the West will be richly rewarded with this solid, well-written book. Highly recommended for both academic and public libraries."


Library Journal

"Ronda is undoubtedly one of the country's foremost scholars of Lewis and Clark, as this fine study indicates. Well documented, it is written with grace and vivid imagery and is both thoughtful and stimulating."


American Historical Review

"This book is an imaginative and thoughtful journey into the West of Lewis and Clark as well as into the mind of western American scholar James P. Ronda. Ronda succeeds in crafting a journey, both geographical and intellectual, which should appeal to a wide variety of historians, geographers, and anyone interested in how the West as we know it came to be."


Indiana Magazine of History

"The seven essays in this volume set a new standard in the interpretation of that American epic. These insightful, erudite, and yet eminently readable pieces set the stage for the expedition and give us the human side of what all too often is conceived of as a heroic saga. By these means the book provides a delightful and stimulating antidote to the blizzard of popular and usually superficial books on that expedition."


Missouri Historical Review

" Finding the West is to be welcomed by professional historian and lay reader alike. It is highly recommended for both university and public libraries, in that it tells a great story in a way that's easy to grasp."


North Dakota History

"Ronda's prose is liquid, his scholarship broad and his storytelling ability absorbing."



6 x 9 in. 160 pages 7 maps