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?
Discuss the ways in which Undaunted Courage shares a reading experience with that of a novel. Yet how is reading history unlike reading fiction?
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?
What small but significant role did women play in the story of the Lewis and Clark Expedition?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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.
Miso Thorny, January 24, 2010 (view all comments by Miso Thorny)
Stephen Ambrose pulls together an incredible story of courage, curiosity and spirit. What an amazing time of exploration and discovery! Ambrose has written a book that gave me a new respect for all the peoples of this era in American history.
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crystalviolet13, November 19, 2007 (view all comments by crystalviolet13)
This was a very good read. I've never been one for non-fiction, and NEVER history! But this is definitely an exception. It wasn't dry, but substantial and interesting and included things many may not have known about Meriwether Lewis. There are little blurbs about the other people too, and it helps tie the whole expedition together and it almost feels like you're there with them!
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Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West
Used Trade Paper
0 stars -
Simon & Schuster -
by Michael P,
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.
by Michael P
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"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
by Library Journal,
"Specialists will appreciate this biography, but general readers will also be enthralled by Ambrose's well-written account."
by Ken Burns,
"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."
"Ambrose's epic, a combination of rhapsody and reality, feels like a final glimpse at a pristine Eden before the crowd of trappers and settlers altered it forever."
by Midwest Book Review,
"This lively survey of Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson and the opening of the American West is recommended both for leisure readers of American history and for students."
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