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Travel Narratives Title

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Ledyard's Journal
Read an Excerpt

Analyzing Documents presents case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. Here is an excerpt from John Ledyard’s journal of his travels along the North American coast in the late 18th century. Ledyard, born a British subject, became an American citizen after Independence. He traveled with the British explorer Captain Cook to Alaska, Siberia, and the Pacific Islands. Along the way he encountered many cultures—indigenous and Russian—and left behind an entertaining account of his travels. Journals such as Ledyard’s often tell us as much about the traveler himself as they do about the places visited.


Read this selection from Ledyard’s Journal slowly and carefully. What strikes you as you read the account of his encounter with the “natives?” How does Ledyard describe them? What does he pay attention to? What does he seem to be leaving out of his description? Which parts of the text seem to be embellishments meant to appeal to his readers rather than accurate descriptions of what he saw? What can we learn about Ledyard by reading his Journal? These are all questions historians ask when they read travel accounts from the past.


Now listen to Professor Thomas Ewing talk about travel narratives and what we can learn from them.Go to Next Page


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A project of the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University,
with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Gladys Delmas Foundation
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