‘You can scarcely form any conception of what a dirty business this gold digging is and of the mode of life which a miner is compelled to lead. We all live more like brutes than humans…’ – A Prospector in California, 1849
Produced by Ken Burns, creator of the stunning ‘The American Civil War’, The West tells the full and fascinating story of the American Frontier from 1500 to 1914. Intricately weaving together evocative and never before seen photographs and newsreels from 74 different archives with journals, American and Native American music, diaries and artefacts, The West tells one of the most fascinating and epic stories in human history.
A host of leading international actors, including:
- Matthew Broderick
- Jason Robards
- Peter Coyote
- Mary Stuart Masterton
- Jimmy Smits
- Ossie Davis
- Gary Sinise
lend their voice talents to authentic letters, journals and diaries from the era, bringing the lives of both ordinary people and the legendary figures of the West vividly to life.
Death Runs Riot
More than anything else, it was the discovery of Gold in 1849 in California’s American River that brought a tidal wave of prospectors and settlers west across the vast expanse of America. For many, the dream of untold riches ended in squalid poverty and death. As the Americans flooded west, they also brought the problems and divisions of the east with them – most notably slavery. Ten years before the American Civil War, the West was already in flames over the issue.
This is the story of those turbulent times in the West – the story of the ‘forty niners’, the mining camps and the new cities like San Francisco that sprang up in their wake. It’s also the story of the terrible wars and massacres that stained the trail with blood – the slaughter of a wagon train by Mormon Settlers, Mexican border raiders determined to drive the ‘Anglos’ away and reclaim Texas for Mexico, the butchering of civilians as North fought South and the start of Custer and Sherman’s campaigns against Native Americans…
Director – Stephen Ives
2000 DD Video