A Wilderness so Immense by John Kukla explores the events leading up to and the enduring effects of the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Kukla begins his story almost twenty years before Jefferson bought the Louisiana territory from France and analyzes how factors ranging from major revolutions to personal relationships all culminated to make the most famous land acquisition in American history possible. He argues that the Louisiana Purchase was not only a case a good luck on Jefferson’s part or solely the result of Napoleon’s failed caribbean ambitions, as some historians that came before him argued. Rather, Kukla explains that the roots of American expansionism are older than the republic itself. American politicians worked and made very…show more content… Kukla’s treatment of destiny in A Wilderness so Immense was provocative, but a bit contradictory. Overall, Kukla does not seem to believe that the United States was destined to expand into the Louisiana Territory in that he does not think it was unavoidable or would that it happened without any real, direct actions from the American government. Indeed, he explicitly states in the very first chapter that although Jefferson felt that “Americans would inevitably force Spain to surrender her provinces,” the president “quietly [did] everything in his power” to bring that inevitability to pass (Kukla 20). Throughout the book, however, Kukla constantly highlights coincidences and refers to historical events as fated and destined. While Kukla, who often demonstrates a love of wordplay, is most likely referring to the language surrounding the Louisiana Purchase and westward expansion (manifest destiny in particular), his interpretation sometimes risks appearing to be teleological.
While the book is not a traditional, academic history text, academics seem to have almost universally agreed as to where it fits in the historiography of the Louisiana Purchase. Almost without fail, those who reviewed A Wilderness so Immense claimed that Kukla’s book “supplants” Alexander DeConde’s 1976 landmark book This Affair of Louisiana (Brands 846, Bernstein 411). DeConde’s work was groundbreaking because it argued that