Book Review: A Life Wild and Perilous


Title: A Life Wild and Perilous

Author: Robert M. Utley

Number of Pages: 285

Note: Robert M. Utley was the Chief Historian of the National Park service and has written several books on history.

What is this book about?

A Life Wild and Perilous is an expose’ on the role mountain men played in the opening, exploring and settling of the vast western region of the United States.

When President Jefferson purchased thousands of square miles of land (called the Louisiana Purchase), he doubled the size of the nation overnight. Lewis and Clark’s expedition in 1803-1805 was essentially the first organized “look” into the northern portion of this newly acquired and unknown land. Surrounding the purchase, the British were established in the northern regions from the Great Lakes all the way to the western shores of the Atlantic along the Columbia River. The Spanish were settled in the southern regions and in California having established missions as far north as Monterey.

After Lewis and Clark’s findings became known, American businessmen began to finance organized expeditions to explore the new land in order to conduct trade with Indian nations and trap for beaver pelts, the latter being in high demand back east and in Europe. Men, young and old, came from all over America to take part. Men like John Colter, Jedediah Smith, the Sublette brothers, Tom Fitzpatrick, Kit Carson and Jim Bridger would go on to play major roles in expanding our knowledge of these western lands.

A Life Wild and Perilous details this history and the parts these men played in settling the west.

Why should you read this book?

A Life Wild and Perilous is a wonderful read. Mr. Utley does an outstanding job of bringing this complex and important part of our history to life. This book is a must read for anyone studying our nation’s history and the opening of the west.

Question: Have you read this book? If you have, what did you think?


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