Great Plains Studies, Center for


Date of this Version

February 1994


Published in Great Plains Research 4:1 (February 1994). Copyright © 1994 The Center for Great Plains Studies, University of Nebraska–Lincoln. Used by permission.


The main feature of Gentle Conquest is the abundance of beautiful illustrations of plants from the collection of the Library of Congress. Around these pictures James L. Reveal has spun a nice, brief account of the naturalists who collected these plants. There are 135 illustrations and pictures, eighty-four in color, forty-three are full page, and most are paintings of plants.

Contrary to the title, the narrative is confined largely to what becomes the United States. The approach is primarily "American frontier": thus the first four chapters cover the period of European colonization, a chapter each on the 1500s and 1600s and two on the 1700s. The featured naturalists are Acosta, John Bannister, Mark Catesby, John Clayton, Alexander Garden, John Bartram, and Linnaeus. The fifth chapter concerns the early explorations into the American West with highlights of the Lewis and Clark adventure and the work of the Michauxs and Thomas Nuttall. The next two chapters describe the European discovery of the botany of the Pacific coast and Hawaii with David Douglas the central figure. The final two chapters fill in and "close" the botanical frontier. Here the focus is on the botanists and collectors who worked with the many western expeditions and surveys of Long, Wilkes, and Fremont.