Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Course of Empire” as Want to Read:
The Course of Empire
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Course of Empire (Trilogy of the West #3)

4.2  ·  Rating Details ·  131 Ratings  ·  15 Reviews
Tracing North American Exploration from Balboa to Lewis and Clark, Devoto tells in a classic fashion how the drama of discovery defined the American nation. The Course of Empire is the third volume in historian Bernard Devoto’s monumental trilogy of the West. Entertaining and incisive, this is the dramatic story of three hundred years of exploration of North America ...more
Paperback, 688 pages
Published September 1st 1998 by Mariner Books (first published 1952)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Course of Empire, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Course of Empire

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper LeeThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark TwainThe Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
100 Best American Authors
193rd out of 578 books — 503 voters
Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtryTrue Grit by Charles PortisBlood Meridian, or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthyAll the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthyNo Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy
Best Westerns
304th out of 770 books — 1,023 voters


More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Matt
Apr 26, 2016 Matt rated it liked it
Reading Bernard De Voto's The Course of Empire put me in mind of the computer game Empire Earth. Empire Earth is a real time strategy game that begins in the Stone Age and spans 500,000 years. You are given a certain number of settlers, with which to gather resources, build armies, and crush your enemies (your enemies being everyone who isn't your country, which makes it a tougher sell in schools than, say, Oregon Trail). The game allows you to be an overbearing, genocidal dictator within the co ...more
Greg Strandberg
Jun 05, 2016 Greg Strandberg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Probably one of the best histories of Western exploration and expansion, an all-encompassing narrative that takes us from the mid-1400s up to 1806 and the end of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

The level of detail about explorers in America and the American West in the 1500s and 1600s was amazing. I had no idea about some of the places these people went to, and how much we knew.

That detail continues right up into the 1700s and 1800s, and even having read and researched dozens of books on fur tra
...more
Erica
Sep 07, 2010 Erica rated it really liked it
This is a history of seriously epic proportions. DeVoto covers 278 years of exploration over a massive continent in 550 pages--and makes it interesting.

I read this as part of a project this semester to explore some narrative histories, which were done very well in the 1950s when this was published (as opposed to thesis-driven history, which has dominated academia since the 1960s and which I feel has had more than its fair share of time in the limelight and ought to be done away with [Heresy!]).
...more
Lorena
Jul 13, 2014 Lorena rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
This is one of the most fascinating books about American History that I have ever read, and filled a huge gap in my knowledge and understanding of the years preceding 1830. I will read it again at least once, as there is so much to absorb and reflect upon. This book is enriching other books I am reading too. Highly recommend!
John Nelson
Nov 17, 2013 John Nelson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The "Great Game" contested by Great Britain, Russia, and to a lesser extent other powers for control of Central Asia is a familiar part of history. This book presents the thesis that North America between 1492 and roughly 1815 was the site of a similar "great game" involving Spain, France, Great Britain, and, at the end, the United States. The major elements were the same: foreign powers occupying the periphery of the continent and seeking to control trade with the interior; indigenous tribes in ...more
Andrew
Jul 14, 2013 Andrew rated it liked it
This history of the development of the United States covers the period from early exploration to the Louisiana Purchase, with heavy emphasis on relations with Native American tribes. In a sense, it is "Guns, Germs and Steel" told from an American perspective. DeVoto, a noted historian, does a good job of describing relationships among the tribes of North America and the impact of trade for guns and iron tools that would change the balance of power among American Indians. It describes the arrival ...more
Cat
Sep 24, 2007 Cat rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: all americans.
Shelves: americanhistory
This is a magisterial history of the exploration of the west by an icon of western histiography. DeVoto takes in the whole sweep of New World history, from the conquistadors up to Lewis and Clark. Lewis and Clark are the clear apogee of the narrative, and the hundred or so pages on their expedition function as a hundred page mini book within a book.

I learned alot about the exploration of the west in this book, especially in the sections devoted to spanish (inept) and french (daring but lacking a
...more
Liam
Oct 17, 2013 Liam rated it really liked it
"'We ever held it certain that going toward the sunset we would find what we desired.' In four centuries, no one ever said it more fully." (quoting Cabeza de Vaca, 19)

"Are there geographical units here to which political units must correspond? It was asked so quietly that down to today many have never realized that it was asked at all." (228)

"The American teleology is geographical." (404)

"[O]n the far shore were not only the Canto merchants who brought the sea otter but Prester John and the Gran
...more
Carl Strange
Mar 16, 2012 Carl Strange rated it liked it
DeVoto is good, but here he loses his narrative power like Napoleon in Russia. Two and a half centuries is just too wide a path to travel for any one story, and the individual stories seem disjointed, as though they belonged in a narrower book. Had he concentrated on the navigation and settlement of the Gulf of Mexico, for instance, the details of hugely erroneous course planning and of human endurance would have come to flower. Instead he moves here from bud to bud.
Mike
Dec 17, 2011 Mike rated it it was ok
Finally finished this behemoth of a book. While some parts were engaging, for the most part it was a drag to get through. There are so many names and places that I felt lost. Would have been nice to have a big map sitting next to me for most of the text.
Caleb Schultz
Dec 10, 2008 Caleb Schultz is currently reading it
A glorious and intellectual account of the History and westward expansion of North America. A lofty read. I consider it a short course on American History. It highlights most of the important items in our history as we expanded west.
Erik Graff
Jul 21, 2013 Erik Graff rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: DeVoto fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Ignorantly, I read this, the third volume of DeVoto's historical trilogy about the westward expansion of the USA, without having read the previous volumes, The Year of Decision 1846 (1942) and Across the Wide Missouri (1947).
Josh
Sep 06, 2008 Josh rated it really liked it
Like Across The Wide Missouri, this can be a grind of a read. But these two, along with The Year of Decision 1846, will likely remain the definitive history of American exploration for a very long time.
Michele
Michele rated it it was amazing
Apr 06, 2016
Keith
Keith rated it it was amazing
Feb 03, 2012
Glenn
Glenn rated it liked it
Jan 06, 2016
Toby
Toby rated it really liked it
Jul 08, 2014
Nathan
Nathan rated it liked it
Mar 10, 2014
Ashlee Pitts/Kelly
Ashlee Pitts/Kelly rated it it was ok
May 12, 2014
Mark Streeter
Mark Streeter rated it really liked it
Aug 02, 2014
Jonathan Parfrey
Jan 04, 2014 Jonathan Parfrey rated it it was amazing
best book i've read on the founding of the american empire
Karen
Karen rated it really liked it
Oct 24, 2010
Curt
Curt rated it really liked it
Oct 31, 2011
Jeff
Jeff rated it it was amazing
Feb 17, 2012
David Gross
David Gross rated it liked it
Mar 28, 2011
Peter Fish
Peter Fish rated it it was amazing
Sep 21, 2012
Kat Vik
Kat Vik rated it really liked it
Jan 28, 2015
Michael Clement
Michael Clement rated it it was amazing
Mar 26, 2014
Jill
Jill rated it it was amazing
Jun 09, 2015
Carole Groves
Carole Groves rated it really liked it
Jun 26, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Legacy of Conquest: The Unbroken Past of the American West
  • The Fatal Environment: The Myth of the Frontier in the Age of Industrialization, 1800–1890
  • Thuggin In Miami (The Family Is Made : Part 1)
  • Men to Match My Mountains: The Opening of the Far West 1840-1900
  • Great River: The Rio Grande in North American History
  • Mistress to an Age: A Life of Madame de Staël
  • Lone Star: A History Of Texas And The Texans
  • A Great and Noble Scheme: The Tragic Story of the Expulsion of the French Acadians from their American Homeland
  • The Cousins' Wars: Religion, Politics, and the Triumph of Anglo-America
  • The Americans, Vol. 3: The Democratic Experience
  • John Paul Jones: Sailor, Hero, Father of the American Navy
  • Killing for Coal: America's Deadliest Labor War
  • The Age of Gold: The California Gold Rush and the New American Dream
  • Virgin Land: The American West as Symbol and Myth
  • The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies
  • Lewis & Clark: The Journey of the Corps of Discovery
  • American Slavery: 1619-1877
  • Voyagers to the West: A Passage in the Peopling of America on the Eve of the Revolution
134252
Bernard Augustine DeVoto was an American historian and author who specialized in the history of the American West.
More about Bernard DeVoto...

Other Books in the Series

Trilogy of the West (3 books)
  • Across the Wide Missouri
  • The Year of Decision 1846

Share This Book