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Emigrants in 19th-century America faced a long and arduous journey as they tried to find a better life for themselves in California. They had a journey of several months in wagon trains. Disease was a deadly foe but the terrain was also a major obstacle, particularly the lack of food and water. Experts and re-enactors describe the hardships faced by these settlers on their journey.
This clip is from:
First broadcast:
29 January 2004

Classroom Ideas

Hold a classroom discussion on how useful the first-hand testimony given is compared to the comments of present day historians. Look in more detail at the case of the Donner Party, investigating aspects of the story that are backed up by evidence and those which are based on supposition or priorities of telling a strong story telling. Discuss
It would be useful to compare experience of the trail west from different time periods, charting the establishment of more reliable travel patterns and the ‘taming’ of the lands they passed through.