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Editorial Reviews

Francis Parkman’s frontier travelogue brims with timeless vignettes and old-world character studies, all told through the restless eyes of the 23-year-old author, himself the very embodiment of Manifest Destiny. Listeners will experience Parkman’s vivid accounts of Plains Indians, prairie life, and varied methods of hunting buffalo. Actor Adrian Cronauer captures the unique idiosyncrasies of the young pioneer - his rejection of "civilized" life, his glowing camaraderie with other frontiersmen - in a performance that blends stoic reserve with a rugged sense of adventure.

Publisher's Summary

The Oregon Trail chronicles the travels of Francis Parkman up the Oregon Trail as he records his observations of the Pawnee and Oglala Sioux. For 6 months he lived among the natives, and even accompanied them on buffalo hunts. Along the way he also recorded an authentic record of frontier life, including eyewitness accounts of the trappers, Mormons, outlaws, pioneers and various adventurers who tried to tame the Wild West.

(P)1987 by Recorded Books, Inc.

Critic Reviews

"His journal is beautifully read by Adrian Cronauer, whose clear diction enhances the text." (Library Journal)

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  • Jim
  • Naples, FL, USA
  • 08-29-06

19th Century On the Road but well-written

Then-college student and later-eminent American historian Francis Parkman recounts his 1846 mid-collegiate “road trip” to the Colorado Rockies in The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life. Think On the Road, but well-written and set in the mid-1800s.

No wimp, even by 19th Century standards, Parkman was adept at bare-back riding, hunting, and living in the wilderness. His well-known marksmanship won Parkman the respect and admiration of hunters and trappers he encountered along the way.

Parkman suffered from a debilitating neurological illness, periodically blinding him and disabling him from walking. His disease was never effectively diagnosed, much less treated. His profound illness makes Parkman’s achievements, those documented in The Oregon Trail as well as his later career at Harvard, first as a horticulturalist, later as historian, even more impressive.

Parkman realized his childhood ambition to write a “history of the American forest” through his authoritative seven-volume France and England in North America (completed in 1892) and The Conspiracy of Pontiac (1851). In them, Parkman combined meticulously-researched history with writing of the highest literary order. The prestigious Francis Parkman Prize, annually awarded by the Society of American Historians for the best book in American history, promotes literary distinction in the writing of history.

We should not ask Parkman to be a 21st Century man. His attitudes were those of his time: he was convinced of the “Manifest Destiny” of the United States, as well as the superiority of white Protestant Christendom. We need to remember his generation and “class” freed the slaves, an accomplishment that eluded the generation of Washington, Adams, Jefferson, and Madison.

15 of 15 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Incorrect Title?

What made the experience of listening to The Oregon Trail the most enjoyable?

I am interested in American History

Would you be willing to try another book from Francis Parkman? Why or why not?

Yes, Parkman brings a very 19th Century point of view.

Which scene was your favorite?

The buffalo hunting from horse back

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?


Any additional comments?

This story is not about the Oregon Trail but about actually part of it. This book is about the Upper Great Plains and the Indians, trappers, guides and soldiers that passed though this area. This story give the reader a good feel of how life on the frontier was really like.

  • Overall
  • Ray
  • Philadelphia, PA, United States
  • 11-02-03

If nothing else, Parkman got the racism right.

Parkman comes across in his book as a sickly wimp, woefully out of place on the frontier and overburdened with the racism and classism of the worst of his age and kind. Parkman lived with the Indians, sometimes living off of them, but still tells us they are barbaric, uncouth, simple minded and of low morals. He also doesn't much like Mexicans, Frenchman, Canadians, Mormons and his trail partner. Lucky he didn't meet any Jews or Africans in his travels (I'm sure he would have told us if he had). Call me hopelessly 21st century, but race bigotry is the only thing Parkman tells me a whole lot about in his 1846 American frontier experience. It overshadows everything else.

You can't just blame the times. The Lewis & Clark journals, written generations earlier, give you a much better feeling for the adventure and beauty of the frontier.

I found the book highly annoying and rather embarrassing.

10 of 28 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Tom
  • Lincoln, CA, United States
  • 12-12-10

The Oregon Trail

I thought this book was OK as i wanted more information regarding the Oregon trail. I am sure there are better books on this subject.

0 of 3 people found this review helpful