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Episode 07, available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and YouTube

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Show notes:  

“It was the first time Americans in substantial groups bonded together and went on these long journeys and everybody knew that when they went on this journey, this was going to be something unlike what they had ever done in their lives before.”

Contrary to popular belief, the American West was not just a bunch of tumbleweeds, saloons, and gunfights. If you look into the Wild West, you will discover that much of America has been shaped by the developments that happened in the West.

In an engaging conversation, H.W. Brands expands on his book, Dreams of El Dorado. Dreamers, to him, were immigrants who were optimistic about making it big by finding a better life in the lands of Western America.

Brands recounts the experience of digging into Western history and transforming his learnings into a masterpiece. He discusses deciding the geographical and chronological boundaries in his writing, starting with the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and ending at the beginning of the twentieth century. Listen to some interesting anecdotes of the Lewis and Clark expedition, the mythical tales of the Oregon Trail, and learn about Brands' deep connection to Texas.

About H.W. Brands:

H.W. Brands is an American historian and the Jack S. Blanton Sr. Chair in History at the University of Texas at Austin. He a two-time finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and is the author over more than 30 books on U.S. history.

Time Stamps:

[01:19] Brands explains the context of his book Dreams of El Dorado
[03:18] What inspired Brands to write about the history of the American West?
[07:37] The general public impression about the Louisiana purchase back in 1803
[13:55] Description of the Great Plains in the Lewis and Clark journal
[17:00] The beginning of the Oregon Trail and the overall objective of the people who traveled to the West
[22:25] The challenges in heading to the Oregon territory - get there in one piece, find a plot of ground to farm, find better health, and the best-case scenario
[26:15] Why is Texas key to Brands’ life and his writings?
[35:22] What changed HW Brands’ perception of the country as he learned its history?
[40:10] Brands’ thoughts on penning another book on the history of Western America

Quotes:

“Nations that have been populated historically by immigrants tend to be more restless, they tend to be less happy, in the sense of contented, happy. But they also tend to be the nations that rule the world. Because these are the strivers, these are the ones who are going to go out and change the world. They change the world by changing their lives first. And then they're going to change the world after that.”

“The title of my book is, Dreams of El Dorado. The subtitle is a history of the American West and that 'American West' was important.”

“One of the things that people have been looking for - the holy grail of exploration, in the Americas - has been the Northwest Passage. It was a passage that would allow access from the Atlantic to the Pacific without having to go all the way around South America.”

“There's something about a journey that bonds people together - cross that with the moon shot of the 1960s. Because it was that kind of leap, there was this civilized place that they were leaving, and there was this place that they were going but in between was this largely unknown, and rather inhospitable territory they had to get across. And this made the settlement of the far west very different from the settlement of earlier West's.”

“It was the first time Americans in substantial groups bonded together and went on these long journeys and everybody knew that when they went on this journey, this was going to be something unlike what they had ever done in their lives before.”

“Ordinary people in ordinary times are really hard to write about. Ordinary people in extraordinary times like this, you can write about them. This is why it's so easy to get coverage of the Civil War.”

Relevant Links:

Books Mentioned:

●  Dreams of El Dorado, by H.W. Brands

●  Lone Star Nation, by H.W. Brands

●  The Age Of Gold, by H.W. Brands

People Mentioned:

●  Thomas Jefferson, American statesman, diplomat, lawyer, architect, musician, philosopher, and Founding Father.

●  Daniel Boone, American pioneer and frontiersman.

●  Stephen F. Austin, Father of Texas.

●  Sam Houston, the first and third president of the Republic of Texas.

●  Benjamin Franklin, Founding Father of the U.S.

Connect with HW Brands:

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