For decades, the West was a land of opportunity shrouded in myth. Foremost was the myth of rugged individualism, and yet nowhere was the hand of the federal government as ubiquitous and decisive as in the West. Acclaimed historian and bestselling author H. W. Brands brings us the sweeping story of the American West through the experiences of the men and women who headed into this new territory with insight from his book Dreams Of El Dorodo.
He introduces us to mountain men, cowboys, missionaries, and soldiers; he takes us on the Oregon Trail, to John Jacob Astor’s fur trading outpost in the Pacific Northwest, to Texas during its revolution and California during the gold rush, and to Little Big Horn on the day of Custer’s defeat at the hands of the Indian general Crazy Horse. He outlines how not every American who went west sought immense wealth, but most expected more than they could find in the East—and how their dreams drove them to feats of courage and perseverance, as well as outrageous acts of violence against indigenous peoples, foreigners, and one another. Listen in as Brands explodes longstanding tropes and reorients our view of the West and American history.
H. W. Brands holds the Jack S. Blanton Sr. chair in history at the University of Texas at Austin. A New York Times-bestselling author, he was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in biography for The First American and Traitor to His Class.
Presented by Town Hall Seattle.