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Frontier Life

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Professor Richard Price,
University of Maryland

Professor Lorenzo Veracini,
Swinburne Institute of Technology

Professor Samuel Truett,
University of New Mexico

Dr Peter Blodgett,
Huntington Library

Professor Ted Koditschek,
University of Missouri, Columbia

Professor Elizabeth Elbourne,
McGill University

Professor Alan Lester,
University of Sussex


  • American Philosophical Society, Pennsylvania
  • California Historical Society
  • Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin
  • Earlham College, Indiana
  • Glenbow Museum
  • Guilford College, North Carolina
  • The Hudson’s Bay Company Archives
  • Massachusetts Historical Society
  • Missouri History Museum
  • Cambridge University Library
  • State Library of New South Wales
  • St Louis Mercantile Library, University of Missouri – St. Louis
  • The National Archives, UK
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of Melbourne Library


  • Correspondence

  • Diaries

  • Government documents

  • Memoirs and accounts

  • Business and financial documents

  • Maps

  • Books

  • Artworks

  • Photographs

  • Legal documents


The documents in Frontier Life reveal the existence of Anglophone settlers on the edges of their world from circa 1650-1920. It covers the following regions:

  • American East

  • American Midwest

  • American Southwest & California

  • Canada

  • North- and West- African expeditions

  • Southern Africa

  • Australia

  • New Zealand

The material can be viewed comparatively or scholars can focus on particular regions. The vast majority of the material is unique and unpublished manuscript in the form of correspondence, diaries, land records, business records. It deals with areas such as:

  • Settlement development

  • The development of law, order and government in settler regions 

  • Violence in settler communities both amongst themselves and with the indigenous populations.

  • Expeditions and exploration in California, Canada, North and West Africa and Australia

  • Relations and encounters with indigenous peoples

  • Trade and commerce with major clusters of material on the fur trade

  • Death, disease and health

  • Missionaries and religion and their roles on the frontiers

  • Women on the frontier

  • Military matters, border disputes and warfare

  • Agriculture and livestock: material on farming and cattle ranching

A few highlights include:

  • Expeditions including the Lewis and Clark journals from the Missouri History Museum and comparative material on the expeditions in Africa and California (Fremont Expedition).
  • Material on the Fur Trade from the Hudson’s Bay Company Archives, St Louis Mercantile Library and the Glenbow Museum
  • Comparative case studies of the religious frontier with Quaker material from Guildford and Earlham Colleges and material on the Mormons in California (California Historical Society).
  • Papers of Zaccheus Macy, 1641-1792 from the Massachusetts Historical Society. An account of the first settlement of Nantucket and a history of relations with Native Indians, the whale fishery and the division of lands.
  • Abel Janney’s narrative of his capture by Shawnee Indians from the St Louis Mercantile Library.
  • Gold rush and mining material including the Klondike (Glenbow), Victoria (UK National Archives), California (California Historical Society) and the Transvaal (UK National Archives). 
  • The Ebersrtadt Collection (Dolph Briscoe) dealing with the US-Texas-Mexico border disputes.
  • Papers of Charles Goodnight (Dolph Briscoe), the legendary cattle baron who established the Loving-Goodnight trail from Texas to Montana.
  • Arthur Phillips’ dispatches relating to the settlement of Australia and the first encounters with indigenous peoples (UK National Archives)


  • Interactive maps

  • Chronology

  • Visual galleries

  • Thematic guides

  • Frontier settlement floorplans and images

Contents List