LAWRENCE -- As part of the 2004 celebration of the Kansas Territory's 150th anniversary, University of Kansas Continuing Education begins the second session of its statewide online book discussion today, Jan. 28. A one-hour credit course accompanies the discussions.
The discussion focuses on Thomas Gladstone's "The Englishman in Kansas, or Squatter Life and Border Warfare." The initial sessions of the four-part book series took place at the Lawrence Public Library in fall 2003 and were audiotaped for the online discussions that began Jan. 14.
Kansans may join the online discussions by going to the Kansas Territorial Experience Web site, http://www.kuce.org/kt/. Information about the public online book discussion group and the accompanying credit course also is available at the site.
Gladstone, a relative of the eminent British statesman William Gladstone, came to the United States in 1856 as a reporter for the London Times. After traveling in the East and South, he arrived in Lawrence in May 1856, the day after the town was raided by Missouri border ruffians and Kansas proslavery advocates. Gladstone noted that the Lawrence newspapers were the first "objects of attack" as the presses for both the Free State and Herald of Freedom papers were demolished. Then the ruffians set fire to the Free-state (Eldridge) Hotel. "The Englishman in Kansas" is a collection of Gladstone's reports describing the ensuing violence as Kansas began to "bleed."
For the next five years, the Kansas controversy dominated the nation's politics. As Gladstone soon realized, much of the conflict had nothing to do with slavery. Rather, many settlers were concerned about acquiring or protecting their land.
Later, Gladstone traveled up the Missouri River to Leavenworth, where a primitive frontier life and frenetic capitalism coexisted. On the same boat, the Kansas abolitionist Gov. Charles Robinson was transported as a U.S. prisoner. In addition to describing the tensions of border warfare, Gladstone visited a company of Sioux warriors who had been taken captive for murder. He contrasts their hospitable, civilized reception with the activities of the lawless white people.
This sesquicentennial book discussion series is supported by the Kansas Humanities Council, a nonprofit cultural organization, as part of its "Talk About Literature in Kansas" program. The Kansas Territorial Experience Web site includes numerous links to Kansas Territorial Online, http://www.territorialkansasonline.org, a site developed by the Kansas State Historical Society and KU.
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