Benjamin Thomas's Reviews > Trailblazers: The Men And Women Who Forged The West

Trailblazers by Constance Jones
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's review
Nov 28, 2014

really liked it
bookshelves: coffee-table-books, non-fiction, history, history-frontier
Read in November, 2014 , read count: 1

I suppose most people buy “coffee-table books” simply to look good as props around the house. They may get paged through for the picture value too, but how many times are they actually read?

I have to say I didn’t expect too much from this book. I feel I am pretty well versed in the history of the American West so what could a coffee-table book offer? Happily, the answer is: quite a lot. No, there are no newly found facts or insights never before presented, but as a nice summary of the forces that interacted and impacted the region over time, you could do far worse.

This book covers far more than the westward wagon trains and the plight of the Native Americans. Quoting from the book’s conclusion, “From Spanish conquistadores to gold-rush prospectors, from French coureurs de bois to American mountain men, from Presbyterian missionaries to Mormon pilgrims, from wagon-train sojourners to railroad barons, from free-spirited cowboys to steadfast sodbusters, from cattle-rustling women to wheat-farming ex-slaves, from Native American warriors to soldiers of the US Army, all kinds of people participated in the invention of the American West. Each blazed a different trail, making a unique contribution to that unique time and place. Together, they left a legacy of brash optimism and fierce individualism that still defines the consciousness of the United States.”

The pictures that accompany the text are of high quality and almost exclusively historical photographs, paintings and maps. Their richness brings the entire book to life. In addition, there are many quotes attributed to the participants, both from famous leaders and pathfinders as well as from the more common people who experienced life from the ground up. For anybody seeking a well written and informative summary of this subject, I highly recommend this book.
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