Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Great Plains Quarterly 6:4 (Fall 1986). Copyright © 1986 Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.


In his instructions of June 1803 to Meriwether Lewis concerning the conduct of what was to become known as the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Thomas Jefferson made it quite clear that one of the Expedition's purposes was to pave the way for the development of American commerce with the Indians of the northern Plains, Rocky Mountains, and Pacific Northwest. That was soon to occur but the President could not have anticipated the longer-term economic spin off for the nation's publishing industry. Since the appearance in 1807 of the first printed account of the Expedition more than one hundred books have been published about it. Until the mid-twentieth century these consisted mainly of editions of the journals and popularized accounts, but in recent decades there has been a steady increase in the publication of carefully edited primary materials and well researched thematic studies. James Ronda's book is quite clearly in the latter category and complements thematic books and papers on Captains Lewis and Clark as linguists, naturalists, cartographers, and creators of regional images. Although it draws on essentially the same primary sources, it does not duplicate any of these and therefore merits serious attention.