Laurie Winn Carlson

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Seduced by the West: Jefferson’s America and the Lure of the Land Beyond the Mississippi

In her provocative book, Carlson questions the larger aims of the famed Lewis and Clark expedition of 1804-1806 and sees it as part of a broad range of schemes to wrest the American West from the claims of established European powers. If American ships were already plying the waters off the Pacific Northwest coast, why, Carlson asks, was it necessary to send Lewis and Clark overland--except as a demonstration of American reach, and perhaps as a ploy to tempt the Spanish to attack the expedition, thus provoking a war with Spain in Florida and the West.

Carlson views the Lewis and Clark expedition as just one of several schemes to seize Western lands from foreign powers and extend the new United States to the Pacific. And behind the scenes in most all of them was the Virginian who actually knew little about the region but under whose presidency the Louisiana Purchase was completed, Thomas Jefferson. As she notes, Jefferson never traveled west, but he was involved to varying degrees with men who did the exploring, organizing, and trekking at the Western frontiers--men who left few papers for historians to pursue and have been largely forgotten.

Seduced by the West investigates the wide range of players in this drama of intrigue and possibilities. Russia, Spain, England, and France all tried to explore the West, and all for different reasons. Only one nation succeeded, but it was not always a simple task--or even an intended one.

Selected Works

Thomas Edison for Kids
A biography with activities and experiments for young readers. Chicago Review Press, 2006.

On Sidesaddles to Heaven: The Women of the Rocky Mountain Mission
The lives of the first six white women--missionaries--to cross the Rocky Mountains in the 1830s.

Seduced by the West:
Jefferson’s America and the Lure of the Land Beyond the Mississippi

A provocative look at the nation and personalities surrounding the Lewis and Clark era.


A Fever in Salem: A New Interpretation of the New England Witch Trials
“innovative... impressive... persuasive”

--Publishers Weekly

Cattle: An Informal Social History
The curious and wonderful story of the animal that changed human history.

University of Missouri Press, June 2005.

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