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Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Lewis & Clark Expedition)


Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Lewis & Clark Expedition) Cover

ISBN13: 9780684811079
ISBN10: 0684811073
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. In Undaunted Courage, Ambrose gives us an unbiased account of Meriwether Lewis. He presents Lewis as both a hero and a flawed man. How does Ambrose reconcile these two sides of Lewis's character

  2. Discuss the ways in which Undaunted Courage shares a reading experience with that of a novel. Yet how is reading history unlike reading fiction?

  3. Compare and contrast the social conventions of Lewis's time with those of our own — in particular the social standing and treatment of women, blacks, and Indians. How much did the harsh physical environment that people endured affect the attitudes of the time in the arena of racial and sexual equality?

  4. What small but significant role did women play in the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?

  5. Discuss the way in which Ambrose clearly depicts the difficulty and confusion that faced both the Americans and the Indians when their paths began to cross. They were different peoples with different ways, and their inability to fully comprehend the other was mutual. Does Ambrose give us a sense of the inevitability of American expansion at the expense of the Indians, or does he suggest and/or imply that there might have been another way?

  6. Ambrose brings to life the diversity of Indians in America in the early 1800s. Now, however, there is little trace of the many tribes that Ambrose described. We often consider what the Indians themselves lost, but what does the world lose when a whole culture of people becomes extinct'. Do you think the Indians gained anything from their assimilation?

  7. At the end of the book, Lewis commits suicide. What does Lewis's suicide leave the living — both in his own time and ours? Discuss the apparent irony of a man who has endured the hardships, terrors, and rigors of a cross-country expedition, returning a hero, only to commit suicide later?

  8. There were many firsts in Undaunted Courage. Lewis was the first white man to explore territory west of the Rockies. York was the first black man these Indians had ever seen. It was the first scientific discovery of many of the floral and fauna specimens Lewis came across during the expedition. What are some other firsts this book reveals?

  9. Discuss the importance of Lewis's expedition. Speculate as to why the story of Lewis and Clark has previously been treated rather superficially? Has Undaunted Courage altered your perspective on American history? Why was Ambrose so tempted to go back and reexamine Meriwether Lewis?

  10. Beyond its historical significance, Undaunted Courage is a story of a great and exciting adventure. Discuss the various hardships that the expedition endured, as well as the truly wondrous and spectacular sights they encountered. Speculate as to what would be encountered now if one were to follow the same voyage as Lewis and Clark.
Recommended Readings

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown

History of the United States of America During the Administrations of Thomas Jefferson, Henry Adams

The Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Bernard DeVoto, ed.

Letters of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Donald Jackson, ed.

Lewis and Clark: Partners in Discovery, John Bakeless

Lewis and Clark Among the Indians, James P. Ronda

Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River, William Dietrich

The Rediscovery of North America, Barry Lopez

Sacajawea of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Ella Clark and Margot Edmonds

Wilderness at Dawn, Ted Morgan

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

lukas, June 25, 2015 (view all comments by lukas)
If you grew up in Oregon or if you're a transplant, you're familiar with Lewis & Clark, the men who were tasked by Jefferson to explore the newly purchased Louisiana Purchase. Popular historian Stephen Ambrose tells their remarkable story in this detailed account. Ambrose, who has written frequently about World War 2 ("Band of Brothers," "D-Day") takes a rah-rah view of history and is more interested in the adventure side of the story than understanding the greater context or meaning of their journey. As such, the reader may feel that he glosses over the negative aspects of the "opening of the American West," especially if you were Native American. Native guide Sacagawea and Clark's African-American slave, York, remain ciphers. There's no denying the excitement of the story and the significance of their achievement, but Ambrose is an overly enthusiastic writer, who has a weakness for calling passages from journals or letters "famous" or "celebrated," although you've never heard of them. The aftermath of the expedition was bitter sweet, as Lewis, who may have been depressive, struggled with drink and money and ended up shooting himself. Required reading for Oregonians. "A Wilderness So Immense" is a more in depth look at the Louisiana Purchase, while the classic "Bury My Heart of Wounded Knee" gives the Native American side of the story.The title comes from Jefferson.
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crochetstory, September 13, 2006 (view all comments by crochetstory)
Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose is an accessible book about American exploration. I had the chance to learn about the Missouri Valley and the Columbia River while the Osage, Sioux, Blackfoot Indians lived along the waters and the plains. There is much to know about Sacagawea and her family. York, Clark's servant, is written about too giving the reader a view of American slavery. Then, there is so much to know about Lewis and Clark and President Jefferson. Last but not least, the beauty of America is magnificently described.
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Product Details

Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
Ambrose, Stephen E.
Ambrose, Stephen E.
Simon and Schuster
New York :
Military - World War II
United States - 20th Century
United States - 19th Century/Old West
United States - State & Local
Europe - General
United States - 19th Century
Jefferson, thomas, 1743-1826
Clark, william, 1770-1838
Presidents & Heads of State
Explorers -- United States -- Biography.
Expeditions & Discoveries
Clark, William
Lewis, Meriwether
US History-19th Century
Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis, Louisian
a Purchase, Thomas Jefferson, American West, explorers, American frontier, Natchez, Sacagawea, Shoshone, indians, wilderness, native americans
Lewis and Clark Expedition, Meriwether Lewis, Louisiana Purchase, Thomas Jefferson, American West, explorers, American frontier, Natchez, Sacagawea, Shoshone, indians, wilderness, native americans
Edition Description:
Lewis & Clark Expedition
Series Volume:
no. 10
Publication Date:
February 1996
Grade Level:
9.25 x 6.12 in 24.99 oz

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » History and Social Science
History and Social Science » Military » World War II » General
History and Social Science » Pacific Northwest » Lewis and Clark
History and Social Science » US History » 19th Century
History and Social Science » US History » 20th Century » General
History and Social Science » World History » European History General
History and Social Science » World History » General

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis Thomas Jefferson and the Opening of the American West (Lewis & Clark Expedition) Used Hardcover
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Product details 512 pages Simon & Schuster - English 9780684811079 Reviews:
"Staff Pick" by ,

At the heart of the immense and growing interest in Lewis and Clark in recent years stands this book. WWII historian Stephen Ambrose had long harbored a private obsession for the Expedition of the Corps of Discovery, and in Undaunted Courage he was able to capture this passion, successfully conveying it to countless readers across the country. Though Ambrose lends Lewis and Clark's story a sense of historical immediacy by quoting the original journals freely throughout, what makes this book so successful is Ambrose's readable, jargon-free writing style and his thriller-writer's talent for shaping a compelling story. Whatever the reason for its success, Undaunted Courage not only topped every national bestseller list, it also inspired a Ken Burns PBS documentary about Lewis and Clark, a second, beautifully produced Lewis and Clark book in conjunction with National Geographic (Lewis and Clark: Voyage of Discovery), as well as our current national fascination with the most famous and historically significant expedition in our history.

"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Ambrose, his wife and five children have followed the footsteps of the Lewis and Clark expedition for 20 summers, in the course of which the explorer has become a friend of the Ambrose family; the author's affection shines through this narrative." Publishers Weekly
"Review" by , "Stephen Ambrose is that rare breed: a historian with true passion for his subject. Here he takes one of the great, but also one of the most superficially considered, stories in American history and breathes fresh life into it. Lewis comes alive as we've never known him."
"Review" by , "Specialists will appreciate this biography, but general readers will also be enthralled by Ambrose's well-written account."
"Synopsis" by , From the bestselling author of andlt;Iandgt;Band of Brothersandlt;/Iandgt; and andlt;Iandgt;D-Dayandlt;/Iandgt;, the definitive book on Lewis and Clarkand#8217;s exploration of the Louisiana Purchase, the most momentous expedition in American history and one of the great adventure stories of all time.andlt;BRandgt;andlt;BRandgt;In 1803 President Thomas Jefferson selected his personal secretary, Captain Meriwether Lewis, to lead a voyage up the Missouri River to the Rockies, over the mountains, down the Columbia River to the Pacific Ocean, and back. Lewis and his partner, Captain William Clark, made the first map of the trans-Mississippi West, provided invaluable scientific data on the flora and fauna of the Louisiana Purchase territory, and established the American claim to Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; Ambrose has pieced together previously unknown information about weather, terrain, and medical knowledge at the time to provide a vivid backdrop for the expedition. Lewis is supported by a rich variety of colorful characters, first of all Jefferson himself, whose interest in exploring and acquiring the American West went back thirty years. Next comes Clark, a rugged frontiersman whose love for Lewis matched Jeffersonand#8217;s. There are numerous Indian chiefs, and Sacagawea, the Indian girl who accompanied the expedition, along with the French-Indian hunter Drouillard, the great naturalists of Philadelphia, the French and Spanish fur traders of St. Louis, John Quincy Adams, and many more leading political, scientific, and military figures of the turn of the century.andlt;BRandgt; andlt;BRandgt; High adventure, high politics, suspense, drama, and diplomacy combine with high romance and personal tragedy to make this outstanding work of scholarship as readable as a novel.
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