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Dreams of El Dorado

H.W. Brands á 8 Free read

John Jacob Astor's fur trading outpost in Oregon to the Texas Revolution from the California gold rush to the Oklahoma land rush He shows how the migrants' dreams drove them to feats of courage and perseverance that put their stay at home cousins to shame and how those same dreams also drove them to outrageous acts of violence against indi. Dreams of El Dorado A History of The American West was a panoramic and overarching view of the settling of the American West by author H W Brands that left one in awe of the history unfolding in such dramatic fashion From President Thomas Jefferson recognizing the importance of expansion into the western part of the country and buoyed by Napoleon's offer to sell Louisiana to the United States this young country began its exploration westward Beginning with the expedition of Lewis and Clark followed by the migration west by courageous Americans and the sacrifice that entailed to the discovery of gold in California and the implementation of the railroad connecting the eastern part of America to the west Brands also touches on the different native American tribes and how they were impacted by this migration west as the concept of Manifest Destiny was implemented Having grown up in the American West much of this has been imprinted on me in bits and pieces but I must say that having such a complete chronology of this most interesting time in American history was invaluable But beyond doubt they were many settlers than had ever ventured to the American West at once Descriptions of the westering army caught the American imagination a mighty people was on the march They were the American dream in motion Even many Americans who were content to stay in the East thrilled about what this great migration said about the energy of their country and its bright futureNo image in American history has been so powerful so evocative not simply of romance and adventure but of what it means to be an American as that of the cowboy Astride his horse etched against a lonely horizon the cowboy epitomizes individualism integrity strength The cowboy guards his herd; he guards his nation's identity Roosevelt wouldn't have been much of a politician if he hadn't hitched his White House agenda to the nostalgia for the West Roosevelt was the first Western president in the sense of being the first to have spent significant time in the West and to take a serious interest in issues peculiar to the WestRoosevelt died in 1919 The most famous image that marked his passing was a sketch called 'The Long Long Trail' which showed him in cowboy gear riding a spectral horse into a Western sky Other figures from the earlier West had gone before

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Epic in its scale fearless in its scope Hampton Sides this masterfully told account of the American West from a two time Pulitzer Prize finalist sets a new standard as it sweeps from the California Gold Rush and beyond In Dreams of El Dorado H W Brands tells the thrilling panoramic story of the settling of the American West He takes us from. Brands is one of my favorite historianauthors He has a way of telling a story that does not come off as overly professorial or long windedly boring This is another great example of his works This book focuses on the development of the West from the time of Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase to Teddy Roosevelts preservation of the American West It is a glorious overview of American history filled with names both familiar and scarcely known Obviously volumes can and have been written on the subject matter of each of these 54 chapters and for someone who wishes to learn than we are all welcome to do so but here Brands gives us so many wonderful and tragic stories characters and incidents that made the West He breaks it down into 8 different sections beginning with the Louisiana Purchase then we have Fur Traders Texas and on and on it goes until we have reached the end of our Continental borders and begin to fill in the Midwest great info on the Oklahoma Land Rush All in all just a superb book by one of our leading historians

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Genous peoples and one another The West was where riches would reward the miner's persistence the cattleman's courage the railroad man's enterprise; but El Dorado was at least as elusive in the West as it ever was in the EastBalanced authoritative and masterfully told Dreams of El Dorado sets a new standard for histories of the American Wes. I won this book in a goodreads drawingA popular history consisting of various histories of chapters of the American West Most are pretty interesting and entertaining


About the Author: H.W. Brands

Henry William Brands was born in Portland Oregon where he lived until he went to California for college He attended Stanford University and studied history and mathematics After graduating he became a traveling salesman with a territory that spanned the West from the Pacific to Colorado His wanderlust diminished after several trips across the Great Basin and he turned to sales of a differen



10 thoughts on “Dreams of El Dorado

  1. says:

    “The West was often viewed as the last bastion of American individualism but woven through its entire history was a strong thread – at times a cable – of collectivism Western individualism sneered even snarled at federal power but federal power was essential to the development of the West The West was America’s unspoiled Eden but the spoilage of the West proceeded rapidly than that of any other region The West was the land of wide open spaces but its residents were concentrated in cities and towns than in most of the East The West was where whites fought Indians but they rarely went into battle without Indian allies and their ranks included black soldiers The West was where fortune beckoned where riches would reward the miner’s persistence the cattleman’s courage the railroad man’s enterprise the bonanza farmer’s audacity; but El Dorado was at least as elusive in the West as it ever was in the East Its elusiveness simply added to its allure” HW Brands Dreams of El Dorado A History of the American WestThe United States of America is a vast space containing many uniue regions of vastly differing geography culture and history But when people think of America the image that often comes to mind is of the West The spirit of rugged go it aloneness allegedly flowing through the American bloodstream is embodied in our mind’s images of taciturn cowboys or solitary homesteaders The optimism that – at one point though no longer – used to imbue the American idea is best captured in the nation’s westward gaze where a potential jackpot of precious metals rich furs and tillable soil awaited those with the guts to take it Finally the stark violence that accompanies any growing nation is on full display during the course of America’s expansion towards the Pacific Ocean This violence however was not solely the result of America’s continental imperialism At least six different countries vied for the West along with dozens of Indian tribes and each actor in this bloody drama operated within a complex web of alliances enemies and aspirations The story of the American West is huge and far too large to be captured in a single volume In Dreams of El Dorado noted historian HW Brands does not even try to corral this sprawling material Instead starting with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 and ending with Teddy Roosevelt’s ascendancy to the presidency in 1901 Brands tells a surprisingly taut tale that focuses on a few carefully selected characters and incidents The men and women we follow run the gamut of experiences None of them can be classified as unknowns but they are not historical celebrities either For instance in telling the story of the fur trade Brands mostly ignores Jim Bridger Kit Carson and Jedediah Smith in favor of John McLoughlin of the Hudson’s Bay Company and trapper Joe Meek who lived a long interesting and literate life having left a written record is one of the necessary conditions for inclusion in this book which does a lot of uoting from primary sources Later in telling how present day Washington was settled Brands follows the odyssey of Marcus and Narcissa Whitman married missionaries who traveled the Oregon Trail to found their mission only to be murdered by Cayuse Indians in 1847 Brands uses these individual experiences to illustrate broader trends He is also – on occasion – able to stitch together a rather seamless narrative by tracing the intersecting lives of the people he has chosen to follow Trapper Joe Meek for example met – and was enad by – Narcissa Whitman during her doomed trek westOne of the surprising things about Dreams of El Dorado is what it underplays or leaves out completely There is very little Sitting Bull or Crazy Horse here which is odd given their impactful roles in defying American expansion Rather Brands conveys much of the Indian experience through the medicine man Black Elk who collaborated with American writer John Niehardt to convey his visions in a book eventually titled Black Elk Speaks Indeed Dreams of El Dorado is decidedly not a military history so famed “Indian fighters” such as Phil Sheridan William Harney and George Custer barely get a sentence or two if they are mentioned at all Brands has long been near the top of my list of favorite author historians Nevertheless he can be frustratingly inconsistent Ultimately I have found his biographies especially of FDR and Ulysses Grant to be fantastic while his general histories rate just above average Even on his best days he is not going to dazzle you with his prose or set pieces His strengths are clarity thoughtfulness and the integration of interesting first person accounts Having read many of Brands’s books I found parts of Dreams of El Dorado to read like a synthesis of his earlier works His easy knowledge of the California Gold Rush the Texas Revolution and the rise of Teddy Roosevelt are the conseuence of him having written extensively on these subjects before in The Age of Gold Lone Star Nation and TR respectively I hesitate to offer any sharp criticisms as Brands is a renowned historian and a delightful talking head in many documentaries Yet I would be remiss if I did not mention how Brands seems to lose a bit of his footing when straying away from topics that he has previously researched and written about In the acknowledgments Brands notes that this project was “suggested” to him rather than it being an idea he came up with himself Frankly there are times I could tell For instance Brands’s brief rendition of the Plains Indians Wars is filled with inaccuracies He repeats unsourced myths about William Fetterman’s fatal 1866 fight along the Bozeman Trail and later makes a hash of the 1876 Centennial Campaign referring to Brigadier General George Crook head of the Department of the Platte as a “lieutenant” of Lieutenant Colonel George Custer who was acting commander of the Seventh Cavalry and most decidedly a subordinate of Crook and not the other way around Later his rendition of the Battle of the Little Big Horn intimates that Crazy Horse somehow planned an ambush to annihilate Custer’s troops even though it was an encounter battle with the eventual hostilities initiated by Custer and grossly mismanaged by him and his subordinates These factual errors are mild and to damn a whole book because of a couple of mistakes is pure grandstanding Still this is the natural result of a shallow reading of limited secondary sources rather than a deep dive into the materials A trip to the endnotes demonstrated unfortunately that Brands relied heavily on Dee Brown Based on my own experiences with his books Dee Brown had a tendency to repeat hearsay and legend as though they were fact At its best though Dreams of El Dorado is able to deliver big ideas in pithy bites During the Gold Rush for example Brands proposes that the West was actually an “industrial frontier” with evolving technologies mining camps morphing into towns and “with corporate boards and banks calling the tune” Rather than an lagging behind during America’s Industrial Revolution Brands puts the West in the vanguard Another reality Brands shows is that the settling of the West was not a progressive push from the left bank of the Mississippi To the contrary the West Coast of present day California Oregon and Washington was settled first with the Great Plains only backfilled later This had obvious implications for Indian tribes who were – at first – willing to let people traverse their territory as long as they kept going Dreams of El Dorado is entertaining fast paced and reader friendly It introduces you to some remarkable people gives you a dozen fraught adventures and leaves you with a healthy reminder that history and myth often share an uncomfortably close coexistence and that the inability to differentiate between the two still affects us to this day


  2. says:

    Brands is one of my favorite historianauthors He has a way of telling a story that does not come off as overly professorial or long windedly boring This is another great example of his works This book focuses on the development of the West from the time of Jefferson's Louisiana Purchase to Teddy Roosevelts preservation of the American West It is a glorious overview of American history filled with names both familiar and scarcely known Obviously volumes can and have been written on the subject matter of each of these 54 chapters and for someone who wishes to learn than we are all welcome to do so but here Brands gives us so many wonderful and tragic stories characters and incidents that made the West He breaks it down into 8 different sections beginning with the Louisiana Purchase then we have Fur Traders Texas and on and on it goes until we have reached the end of our Continental borders and begin to fill in the Midwest great info on the Oklahoma Land Rush All in all just a superb book by one of our leading historians


  3. says:

    I’ve lived in the West almost all my life and have read a number of Western histories over the years This is a very good one and I learned uite a bit of new to me stuff in reading it Prof Brands is a dab hand with a telling anecdote and I’ll relate a couple of good ones from my notes First you should as always read the publishers introduction and my excerpts from the fine WSJ reviewLewis and Clark’s 28 month 8000 mile journey from St Louis to Oregon and back not only represented an amazing feat of courage and endurance but established the precedent for federal sponsorship of exploration and scientific discovery that we still adhere to today And despite the excitement and national pride that the expedition elicited he reminds us that it was also something of a letdown In dispatching the Corps of Discovery Jefferson was hoping to find a navigable route to the West Coast to open trade with the Indians and to plant the American flag in Oregon which was also claimed by Great Britain But after learning of those cataracts on the Missouri and Columbia the president reluctantly concluded the Far West might be too remote ever to join the United States and he believed it was likely to become an independent republic And so Mr Brands writes “the disappointments attached to the Lewis and Clark expedition set the pattern for many disappointments to follow Time and again Americans would project their dreams onto the West and be disappointed ” Mr Brands takes pleasure in explaining how things work and has studded the book with illuminating asides He describes the lifeways of the beaver and the annual cycle of a fur trapper He catalogs the daily routine of a wagon train He shows how the uintessentially western industries of gold mining cattle raising and farming outgrew their small scale origins and soon became as industrialized as the manufacturing done at factories back east He explains how the introduction of the horse fundamentally changed Native American culture and how the tribes’ decentralized governance sometimes increased the likelihood of violence in the face of white encroachmentThis isn’t a book of white hats and black hats Neither does Mr Brands shy away from the less heroic episodes of western history From the beginning he reminds us the region was a chaotic dangerous place In fact he considers violence “humans killing one another in the struggle for control of Western resources” as “the defining characteristic of the West”WSJ review Paywalled As always I'm happy to email a copy to non subscribers You might also read the Kirkus review for a uick short look did skim some of the history I already knew well but Brand is such a good writer that I read almost all of his account of the Lewis Clark expedition even though I had previously read the expedition journal Anecdote in their dismal winter camp at the mouth of the Columbia 1805 1806 “In nearly 4 months rain fell on all but 12 days” Why I would never want to live in the Pacific NorthwestLincoln was elected President in 1860 without winning a single electoral vote in the South Even before his Inauguration Southern states started to secede Brand speculates what if Louisiana and Texas hadn’t seceded? Lincoln had to maintain America’s access to the Mississippi — but would he have let the others go as a “rump country on the wrong side of history”?Highly recommended if you are interested in Western history 44 stars


  4. says:

    Dreams of El Dorado A History of The American West was a panoramic and overarching view of the settling of the American West by author H W Brands that left one in awe of the history unfolding in such dramatic fashion From President Thomas Jefferson recognizing the importance of expansion into the western part of the country and buoyed by Napoleon's offer to sell Louisiana to the United States this young country began its exploration westward Beginning with the expedition of Lewis and Clark followed by the migration west by courageous Americans and the sacrifice that entailed to the discovery of gold in California and the implementation of the railroad connecting the eastern part of America to the west Brands also touches on the different native American tribes and how they were impacted by this migration west as the concept of Manifest Destiny was implemented Having grown up in the American West much of this has been imprinted on me in bits and pieces but I must say that having such a complete chronology of this most interesting time in American history was invaluable But beyond doubt they were many settlers than had ever ventured to the American West at once Descriptions of the westering army caught the American imagination a mighty people was on the march They were the American dream in motion Even many Americans who were content to stay in the East thrilled about what this great migration said about the energy of their country and its bright futureNo image in American history has been so powerful so evocative not simply of romance and adventure but of what it means to be an American as that of the cowboy Astride his horse etched against a lonely horizon the cowboy epitomizes individualism integrity strength The cowboy guards his herd; he guards his nation's identity Roosevelt wouldn't have been much of a politician if he hadn't hitched his White House agenda to the nostalgia for the West Roosevelt was the first Western president in the sense of being the first to have spent significant time in the West and to take a serious interest in issues peculiar to the WestRoosevelt died in 1919 The most famous image that marked his passing was a sketch called 'The Long Long Trail' which showed him in cowboy gear riding a spectral horse into a Western sky Other figures from the earlier West had gone before


  5. says:

    This will make a great research tool for those looking to understand some of the history of events like the Gold Rush of 1849 or the Indian Wars Sadly there are connections missing between events and it feels as though the author isn't making a coherent argument or telling a full story That's not to say the individual chaptersvignettes aren't well told just that there seems to be here that is needed for a real understanding of how the American West evolvedARC provided by publisher


  6. says:

    I received a copy of this book as part of a Goodreads giveaway HW Brands' new book is an ambitious one the story of the American west both the history and the myth Beginning with John Jacob Astor and the fur trade stopping along to tell of revolutions in Texas missionaries in Oregon gold and land rushes in multiple territories Mormons and ranchers railroad expansion and native tribe decimation Dreams Of El Dorado is a fascinating study in the history of how the American frontier was transformed The writing is balanced in that Brands does not shy away from telling of the terrible toll native peoples paid while also describing the courage and grit of the settlers Additionally Brands tackles to a certain degree the myth of the American west; particularly interesting to me is how the rugged individualism that to this day is so associated with the American West developed in a area that owes much of it's existence to the Federal government its interventions and its army He also explores the way the Western experience helped Teddy Roosevelt create his own myth one that helped propel him from the son of Eastern wealth to America's first Western President A very readable informative and entertaining book


  7. says:

    Brands's historical method is the story rather than analysis and interpretation of events So Dreams of El Dorado is the story of the American west rather than its history All the iconic events are here framed by 2 presidents Thomas Jefferson who sprung the Lewis and Clark Expedition into the newly acuired Louisiana Purchase and Theodore Roosevelt the 1st modern president to see the west's potential for both industrial and recreational development We're familiar with the events recounted here the story of The Alamo the story of the wagon trains of the gold rush of cattle drives and the building of the transcontinental railroad much The stories are told using firsthand accounts and language It's an acceptable way of doing history but in my opinion using only firsthand accounts roots the stories in a narrative layer where facts may have been misunderstood or even missed therefore inadvertently obscuring key elements and ultimately meaning Brands doesn't tell the story well My best example of this weakness is the Custer massacre at the Little Big Horn We know uite a bit about the events of that June day considering most of the story has come down to us through Indian oral traditions Brands lets the legendary Black Elk tell the Little Big Horn Black Elk was there 13 years old but his telling amounts to a vague sketch of the fight viewed through his own terrified actions Brands is satisfied with this version of the Custer fight but I think it illustrates his difficulties in telling the story of the west completely and accurately in this way and it makes a reader uestion the accuracy of other stories The overarching narrative in its entirety a century of history in that immense landscape crisscrossed by a diversity of peoples and motives is far too big to be told in a single volume of 481 pages anyway The result of trying to record such a history in so vast a land and in such an enormous century of change is the slight Dreams of El Dorado


  8. says:

    I won this book in a goodreads drawingA popular history consisting of various histories of chapters of the American West Most are pretty interesting and entertaining


  9. says:

    Wow I don't know where to start with this book I was absolutely captivated by the narrative style Disclaimer I had read another of this author's previous works a biography of US Grant so my opinion might not be exactly neutral Anyway this book was a pleasant surprise from start to finish This book should be reuired reading for all high school students We are losing touch with reality in small pieces by not studying past history with enough vigor A good starting point for anyone interested in the American West and its history


  10. says:

    This is a very good one volume history of the American West It’s clearly very well researched and does not shrink from the negative aspects of ”Go West young man” Weirdly I got a little annoyed with all the primary sources very unlike me as I usually appreciate such detail Somehow though I was hoping to hear a bit analysis and interpretation of the sources rather than just the recitation of the diaries letters newspaper articles etc That being said I came away with a much better and wholistic view of how the West was “won” and what was lost as a result A solid 4 stars


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