American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783–1850

Alan Taylor. Norton, $35 (592p) ISBN 978-1-324-00579-7
An unstable nation deflected its seething tensions and anxieties into an aggressive expansionism, according to this trenchant history of the fledgling U.S. Pulitzer winner Taylor (American Revolutions) focuses on the growth of American territory and national power through diplomacy and wars aimed at clearing Native Americans from western land coveted by settlers, gaining new territory for slave states, and warding off Great Britain and Spain. The War of 1812, he argues, was actually part of a greater “War of the 1810s” that saw a decade of fighting from the Northwest Territory to Florida to consolidate and extend America’s borders. According to Taylor, this outward-directed program ended up exacerbating internal divisions, as unpopular wars and the prospect that new states might upset the slave state-free state balance stoked sectional antagonisms. The portrait of the U.S. that emerges is not flattering: Taylor foregrounds white supremacy, sexism, slavery, the miseries of industrial capitalism, the ethnic cleansing of Native Americans, and atrocities committed by U.S. soldiers in the Mexican War. This elegantly written and thoughtfully argued study shows how rickety and explosive the American project was from the start. (May)
Reviewed on : 12/29/2020
Release date: 05/18/2021
Genre: Nonfiction
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