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Astoria and Empire

by James P. Ronda

Astoria and Empire Synopsis

In his 1836 account Washington Irving immortalized Astoria, but it has been a footnote to the history of western expansion-a doleful reminder of John Jacob Astor's failed attempt to establish a fur-trading empire at the mouth of the Columbia from 1810 to 1813. Now James P. Ronda makes clear the importance of the Astoria venture in large and complex struggle for national sovereignty in the Northwest. Astoria and Empire is the first modern account and assessment of Astor's enterprise and the first ever to unravel the tangled skein of Astoria's international connections. On the Columbia, Ronda writes, lines of national rivalry, personal ambition, and cultural diversity intersected to shape a larger continental destiny. In examining the ways in which Astor's Pacific Fur Company attempted to create the first American empire west of the Rockies, Ronda offers new interpretations of Astoria's origins, of Astor's role as an imperial strategist who negotiated with the Russian American Company and fought with the archrival North West Company, and of his intricate schemes to save Astoria from ruin during the War of 1812. Astoria and Empire draws on important archival sources only recently discovered, including Duncan McDougall's journal, which allows the reconstruction of daily life at Astoria. If the book is a study of rival empires, it is also a social history of exploration and the fur trade. Richly detailed, it teems with Indians of many tribes and international cast of traders, naval officers, diplomats, and rogues. They act on a historical stage stretching from Russia and the Orient to North America and from New York, Washington, and St. Louis to Astoria, the crossroads of an empire.

Astoria and Empire Press Reviews

We have long needed a new academic assessment of John Jacob Astor's venture on the Columbia. That enterprise had important potential for expanding American commercial trade throughout the Pacific Rim; yet it is often portrayed as little more than an ill-conceived and undercapitalized probe destined to fail. Ronda gives us the most complete analysis to date. He is one of the very best craftsmen writing in the field of western history today. -William R. Swagerty, University of Idaho.

Book Information

ISBN: 9780803289420
Publication date: 1st June 1990
Author: James P. Ronda
Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
Format: Paperback / softback
Pagination: 400 pages
Categories: Social & cultural history,

About James P. Ronda

James P. Ronda holds the H. G. Barnard Chair in Western History at the University of Tulsa. His publications include the critically acclaimed Lewis and Clark among the Indians (1984), also published by the University of Nebraska Press.

More About James P. Ronda

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