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Using Louis L'amour to Teach History

If you've been following my blog for any length of time (or know me in person) you know I'm a big fan of Louis L'amour. I've already blogged about it here and here. So, naturally, I'll find a way to use  my favorite author in our homeschool!

You may think of westerns when you hear his name, and while that is mostly what he wrote (and what I love most), he also wrote several great books from other time periods. They make great historical fiction to go along with any study of history!

Here are some of my favorites. The links to each title (or series) go to LouisLamour.com, which include a map of each story location, and a sneak peek at the first chapter.

The Walking Drum - Europe: 12th Century.
"At the center of The Walking Drum is Kerbouchard, one of L'Amour's greatest heroes. Warrior, lover, scholar, Kerbouchard is a daring seeker of knowledge and fortune bound on a journey of enormous challenge, danger and revenge. Across the Europe, the Russian steppes and through the Byzantine wonder of Constantinople, gateway to Asia, Kerbouchard is thrust into the heart of the treacheries, passions, violence and dazzling wonders of a magnificent time. From castle to slave gallery, from sword-racked battlefields to a princess's secret chamber, and ultimately, to the impregnable fortress of the Valley of Assassins, The Walking Drum is a powerful adventure of an ancient world you will find every bit as riveting as Louis L'Amour's stories of the American West." 

Map from The Walking Drum

 Fair Blows the Wind -  Europe: 1589. "Shipwrecked on the coast of North Carolina, his companions killed, Tatton Chantry is alone--and ready for action. In the old world he fought wars, skirmishes, duels. Now, in the wilderness of America, this swashbuckling hero takes up against pirates, Spanish fortune seekers, savage Indians. Aided by a beautiful Peruvian woman, he braves the fierce challenges of the New World--always, like a true Chantry, with his expert hand on the hilt on his faithful silver sword." The story includes flashbacks to Chantry's earlier years in England, Ireland, and Scotland. I read this aloud to my kids as part of our study of the 16th Century. 

The Ferguson Rifle - America: 1803. "Stripped of all he values in life, Ronan Chantry takes up his prized Ferguson rifle and heads west -- into an unknown land and an uncertain future. For an educated man, Chantry is surprisingly tough. For a civilized man, he is unexpectedly dangerous. But even he can't know the true extent of his courage until he draws the fire of a man who will do anything -- kill anyone -- for the glitter of gold."

The Sackett Novels - England/America: 1600s. "While continuing to write Sackett stories set in the old west, Louis L'Amour also went back to establish the family's roots in Elizabethan England. "Sackett's Land" and "To the Far Blue Mountains" have much of their action set in the British Isles. "The Warrior's Path" splits it's local between the Spartan conditions of the early Pilgrim colonies and the tropical chaos of Port Royal, Jamaica, headquarters to the pirates plying the Spanish Main. "Jubal Sackett" travels west to what would become Colorado in the time of the Conquistadors."

The first four Sackett novels take place in the 1600s. The 5th one takes place in the 1830's, in and around Philadelphia. It's the only one that is told by a female (and a teenage female at that!). It's called Ride the River. The rest of the Sackett novels are westerns, and they are awesome.

The Sackett Companion is a non-fiction guide to the historic settings of the Sackett Novels. The books are listed in chronological order. Each book includes a map of story locations, and includes details about each character as well as the real places and historic figures that appear in the story. It's an excellent reference.

Down the Long Hills Wyoming Territory: 1848. This is a story about kids, trying to cross the Wyoming Territory on their own. The beginning could be a little scary (there is a murder) but Louis L'amour never deals in gore. Read the first chapter sneak peek to see if it's suitable for your family. I read it aloud to all of my children (ages 5-15). 

Comstock Lode America: 1860. A great story about mining during the gold and silver boom of the west. 

There are many Short Story collections, for those who prefer something besides a novel. 

After many years of borrowing these books from my grandfather, I have recently inherited his entire Leatherette Collection. Any books listed in my history curriculum are read aloud by me, but occasionally I'll assign books to my older students to listen to on Audible. We have every single Louis L'amour book that Audible offers. If you haven't tried Audible yet, click on the link at the top of my blog. You'll get 2 free books to start! And when you sign up, comment below and I will give you a third book free!

Before you go, check out the long list of movies adapted from Louis L'amour's books! Hondo is my favorite. It's almost word-for-word exact to the book, and it stars John Wayne. Several of his movies star some great actors, including Jimmy Stewart, Sam Elliott, and Tom Selleck.

I hope you and your family enjoy Louis L'amour as much as we do!

Check out my History and Homeschooling pages for more fun suggestions.

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