Monday, January 11, 2010

Western History Comes Alive

This Day in History we read about how President Theodore Roosevelt, the conservationist president, declared the Grand Canyon a national monument. The first sighting of the canyon by Europeans took place in 1540 and by the end of the 19th century thousands of people, including Roosevelt himself, visited the canyon. Seeing how it was a natural wonder, the President decided to make the canyon a national monument on January 11, 1908 and outlawed commercial development in that area.
Recently, new documentaries and books have been published about the history of the West and the conservation movement. First, award winning film-maker, Ken Burns released his latest documentary called The National Parks: America's Best Idea and portray a message that "the nation's most magnificent and sacred places should be preserved, not for royalty or the rich, but for everyone" and how our national parks have an important place in American History. Finally, Historian Douglas Brinkley has published a rich biography of President Theodore Roosevelt, not so much on his life but how he was a crusade to preserve the natural West by creating several national parks that Americans still enjoy today. The book, The Wilderness Warrior: Theodore Roosevelt and the Crusade for America, Brinkley argued how TR's conservation agenda (between 1901 and 1908) could perhaps be "the greatest U.S. presidential initiative between the Civil War and World War I."
So, if you would like to start learning about the history of the West and the conservation movement, the two best starting points to turn to are the documentary by Ken Burns and also Douglas Brinkley's mammoth book about President Roosevelt and his crusade to preserve the West.

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