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The Winning of the West

The Winning of the West
The Winning of the West, Book Volumes

The Winning of the West was written over several years, 1889-1895, and completed in four volumes. It is one of Roosevelt’s greatest works. Like many historians of his time, he believed thoroughly in Manifest Destiny, but unlike many of them, he believed that history was primarily an art and literature rather than scientific in nature. He believed fervently that history had moral lessons to teach and that it was the historian’s job to make value judgments. This did not, however, stop him from making a concerted effort to use primary sources such as archival materials in his writing. The book won favorable reviews from both the general public and the scholarly community.

Roosevelt’s ability to write exciting passages was at its height in this huge work, even though he said that the writing went very slowly and “was horribly hard work to me.” One passage will indicate his mastery of story telling.

In the exploration of Kentucky, three brothers named McAfee were camped at a place called Big Bone Lick, named for fossil mastodon bones found there. In their exploration of the area around this lick, they met with the following adventure:

One of the McAfees and a companion were (with a hunting party) … when some others of the party fired at a gang of buffaloes, which stampeded directly towards the two. While his companion scampered up a leaning mulberry bush, McAfee, less agile, leaped behind a tree trunk, where he stood sideways till the buffalo passed, their horns scraping off the bark on either side; then he looked round to see his friend “hanging in the mulberry bush like a coon.”

Last Updated: November 3, 2021