The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History

By Carlos Arnaldo Schwantes | Go to book overview
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Preface to the Revised Edition

For me the study of Pacific Northwest history has become an intensely personal experience, especially so during the five years since completing the first edition of this book. I wanted to examine personally the ruts of the Oregon Trail in eastern Wyoming or rendezvous with memories of Captain George Vancouver as he charted some little-known cove in Puget Sound or return to a remote canyon in northern Idaho where striking metal miners battled mine-owners a century ago. I cannot go back in time, but I can seek inspiration by going to a place of historical significance. This grass-roots approach to history is all a bit crazy, perhaps, but it is certainly worth the effort if somehow I can translate these personal encounters into a new and better edition of The Pacific Northwest: An Interpretive History.

Today I would gladly describe myself as a field historian, one who pursues his craft with equal facility in the archives or while tramping through the woods with a camera and notebook. I think I understand better now why a high school vocational aptitude test predicted a career for me in forestry. Certainly I felt completely at ease in the woods on an August morning in 1992 when with camera in hand I waited for dawn to backlight the crest of the Bitterroot divide between Idaho and Montana. Accompanying me to the ridge top, although most of them were still asleep in their tents, were two dozen students from the University of Idaho taking a week to retrace the footsteps of early explorers in the mountains above the Lochsa and Clearwater rivers. Perhaps as children some of these students had been intrigued by the brown and white signs posted along the federal highway below to mark the route of Lewis and Clark; perhaps some had been hooked by tales


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