The Lewis and Clark Expedition:
A Pathfinder

[Introduction] [Scope] [Locations] [General Books] [Biographical Works] [Key Diaries and Papers] [Specialized Studies]
[Encyclopedia and Dictionary Sources] [Bibliographies and Handbooks] [Journals] [Abstracts and Indexes] [CD-ROMs and Diskettes] [Reviews] [Audio-Visual Materials] [Maps and Atlases] [WWW Sources]


"The work we are now doing is, I trust, done for posterity, in such a way that they need not repeat it… We shall delineate with correctness the great arteries of this great country; those who come after us will… fill up the canvas we begin."

- Thomas Jefferson

The atmosphere was electric. With the purchase of the Louisiana Territory, the country had more than doubled its size. President Thomas Jefferson had envisioned a nation of farmers from sea to sea, and now these young United States were well on their way. Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, two intelligent and adventurous military officers, were appointed to lead an expedition; their fifty-man team became known as the Corps of Discovery. Jefferson had an ambitious set of goals for this pioneering set of troops. Their mission was to scientifically describe the land, especially its flora and fauna; to make contact with Indian leaders and inform them about their new leader in Washington; and to find out about fur trading possibilities. Paramount was the aim to discover the last link of the mysterious Northwest Passage, the all water route between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Over the course of the two-year expedition, the persevering group courageously fulfilled all parts of their mission. The only area where they may have been criticized for falling short was the lack of discovery concerning the Northwest Passage. Even in this area, their contribution was great in that they correctly concluded there was no such all water route. The expedition included a voyage to the far headwaters of the Missouri, several treks over the rugged Rocky Mountains and exploration of the Columbia River basin. Later generations have praised the expedition for its multicultural and gender related successes. The Lewis and Clark Expedition included a scene where the first black person in American History exercised the right to suffrage, and even as the expedition exposed the Corps of Discovery to hundreds of Indians from many tribes, there were only a few skirmishes. The Shoshoni woman, Sacajawea, provided key leadership to the expedition and in early 1805, a Nez Perce woman saved the expedition from sure destruction. Many say Lewis and Clark discovered the American future and taught later generations that if we work together, anything is possible.


2004 - 2006 mark the bi-centennial years of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. I am excited to provide this pathfinder as I predict an invigorated excitement about this first and most important expedition in U.S. History. This pathfinder is designed particularly for students at the University of North Carolina as almost all of the sources mentioned can be located or accessed from this academic institution. The topic is divided into three research areas in order to expedite your browsing.

Key to Locations:
Davis = Davis Library Stacks
Davis Ref. = Davis Library Reference Room
UL = Undergraduate Library
UL Ref. = Undergraduate Library, Reference Department

LC Subject Headings:
These subject headings are placed under three categories.

Lewis and Clark Expedition:

Key Characters and Groups of the Lewis and Clark Expedition:

Modern Lewis and Clark Trails, Site and General Geography:

Outstanding Books About the Lewis and Clark Expedition:

General Books About Lewis and Clark:
Each of these resources covers the complete journey and does so with passion and grace. They are among the classic texts concerning the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Biographical Works About the Important Characters of the Expedition:
None of these works provide a broad enough scope to merit description. However, they are valuable supplemental sources to scholars of the Lewis and Clark Expedition.

Key Diaries, Records, Papers and Journals Sources of the Expedition:
Lewis and Clark are described as the "writingest explorers". Scholars wanting to learn of the quest directly from its participants will need to consult one or more of the works below.

Specialized Studies on Different Aspects of the Expedition:
The members of expedition were to report on every aspect of life west of the Mississippi. Scholars from many diverse disciplines have analyzed the expedition.

Encyclopedia and Dictionary Sources:
These sources are valuable as a first step in a study of the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They provide the basic historical framework from which further study can be initiated.

General Adult Sources:

Specialized Adult Sources:

Bibliographies and Handbooks:
After examining six reference works in this area, it was determined that only one merited inclusion in this pathfinder. The others all mentioned Lewis and Clark but referenced to only one or two topical sources.

The following are journals where articles about Lewis and Clark are frequently published.

Abstracts and Indexes:
These electronic databases are the principal tool for finding recent scholarly writing about the Lewis and Clark Expedition. They point the way to hundreds of articles, reviews and dissertations.

CD-ROMs and Diskettes:
The information available from the CD-ROMS listed below is basically in line with the information retrievable from the encyclopedias. However, each provides a different perspective and area of expertise. For this pathfinder, only resources at UNC were examined. People should consult their local library for more options.

There is an abundance of reviews evaluating individual works. A large portion of those reviews can be found in the journals listed in this pathfinder. Below is a comprehensive review of Lewis and Clark books.

Audio Visual Materials:
There are a myriad of short instructional videos about Lewis and Clark. An acclaimed video series on the Expedition, and the only one available at UNC, is listed below.

Maps and Atlases:
Lewis and Clark produced an astonishing number of maps. Most of the book sources listed above contain some of their maps. Below are some key map and atlas resources outside the scope of the main texts.

WWW Sources:
The world wide web sources can provide both depth and breadth. These are definitely the best sources to consult when seeking information about how the Lewis and Clark Expedition continues to have an impact on American Society today.


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