Lewis and Clark’s Brilliant Failure: An Exploration of the Famous Expedition

Patrick Allitt
Patrick Allitt
Emory University

Patrick Allitt has been a professor of American History at Emory University since 1988, where he teaches courses on American intellectual, environmental, and religious history, as well as Victorian Britain and the Great Books. After earning an undergraduate degree at Oxford and a Ph.D. in American history at the University of California, Berkeley, Professor Allitt held postdoctoral fellowships at Harvard and Princeton. He is the author of seven books, including his most recent: A Climate of Crisis: America in the Age of Environmentalism.

 

 

Overview

September 1, 2022, 4:00 pm

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(Includes Live Professor Q & A!)

 

In 1803, President Jefferson asked Lewis and Clark to find a straightforward water route to the Pacific Ocean.  No white Americans had yet visited the Rocky Mountains, so the two leaders of the Corps of Discovery had no idea how high and wild its ranges were.  They envisioned paddling up the Missouri River to its headwaters, carrying their canoes over a gentle ridge, and putting them into the headwaters of the Columbia River on the other side, before floating down to the Pacific shore.  Instead, their three-year journey – from 1804-1806 — exploded that fantasy, subjecting them to grueling hardships.  Neither were they able to fulfil Jefferson’s hope that they could pacify all the Native Americans they met, converting them into allies of the “Great White Father” in Washington.

Despite these disappointments, Lewis and Clark did a brilliant job as mapmakers, explorers, anthropologists, botanists, and diplomats: achievements for which we still honor them today.  By the end of Professor Allitt’s lecture, you will better understand who these brave explorers were, how they set about their venture, the most important decisions they made, and the crises they faced together.  You’ll also learn about their return to the “states” after three tough years, by which time many contemporaries assumed they had died somewhere along the trail.

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