READ A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World, 1830-1910 by Steven Hahn fb2 sale tablet access online

READ A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World, 1830-1910 by Steven Hahn fb2 sale tablet access online

READ A Nation Without Borders: The United States and Its World, 1830-1910 by Steven Hahn fb2 sale tablet access online

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Book description

Book description
As Steven Hahn writes early in A Nation Without Borders, the general consensus regarding the course of American power is that America began as a nation immediately following her break with Great Britain. She only emerged as an empire near the end of the 19th century, following the outcome of the Spanish-American War. Hahn’s book offers a different view of American transformation, one that he argues convincingly. He believes that:[T]he model of governance inherited from the British was empire; that from the birth of the Republic the United States was a union with significant imperial ambitions on the continent and in the hemisphere, many pushed by slaveholders and their allies; that the United States only became a nation, a nation-state…in the midst of a massive political struggle in the 1860s; and that the new American nation reconfigured the character of its empire, first in the South and the trans-Mississippi West before reaching overseas.This seems a rather nuanced position for such a prodigious book. Heck, at first blush, it kind of sounds like the type of thing youd overhear two political science undergrads arguing about while sipping craft beer at trendy new (but not too trendy) micro pub. And to be sure, A Nation Without Borders does not hail from the Everything You’ve Ever Learned About American History is Wrong school of thought. It is not written as a radical polemic, and does not ask you to trash all your cherished (or not so cherished) notions of America. But Hahn isn’t out to prove some arcane academic notion either. He is presenting a fascinating reinterpretation of America’s rise to worldwide eminence. This is a work of revision, not of the facts, but of what those facts mean. It is beyond clichéd at this point to say that understanding the past helps us reconcile the present. Indeed, I spent a good fifteen minutes just now trying to find a better way of stating the obvious. I can’t, and so we’re left with the trite but true. America today has a reach that extends into every corner of earth. There are consequences to that. We can’t fully appreciate those consequences - the reactions of the rest of the world, the reactions of left-behind Americans - unless we have a firm grasp of the context from which American might arose. The scope of Hahn’s book is massive. In 518 pages of text, it covers roughly 80 years of American history. A Nation Without Borders begins in Mexico in 1836, with Santa Anna leading an army meant to crush a rebellion in Coahuila y Tejas. This is fitting place to start, since America’s continental imperialism (Hahn views the acquisition of western territories as a form of colonialism) began on the borderland between Texas and Mexico. The book ends around the time of World War I, with Mexico once again dealing with a revolution, and the United States once again playing a key role.A lot happened between those two bookends. Indian tribes were dispossessed of their lands. Railroads were built. Slaves were freed and then de facto re-enslaved. Black people fought for their civil rights. Women fought for their civil rights. Corporations became people, and had to do very little fighting for civil rights. A continental empire became a Pacific empire (though not necessarily a pacific empire). Not only is this an eventful period, but it’s remarkably compressed. Someone born in 1830 might easily have lived long enough to remember the Alamo, the Civil War, the first flight of an airplane, and the First World War. This is clearly too much incident for any single volume to handle. Hahn’s solution is to break things down into a series of rebellions. The outcomes of these various insurgencies, Hahn writes, shaped the destiny of the United States. The most obvious and heavily covered is the rebellion of slaves verses slave-owners, culminating in the Civil War (which Hahn unnecessarily but consistently refers to as the War of the Rebellion). Other insurrections include the Indian tribes rebelling against the Federal Government, women rebelling against the patriarchy, and workers rebelling against their employers. By focusing on these discrete conflicts, he is better able to harness a huge amount of information and hone it into a coherent argument that is both readily graspable and a pleasure to read. Unsurprisingly, Hahn’s big centerpiece is the Civil War and Reconstruction. His handling of this well-covered era is emblematic of A Nation Without Borders as a whole. Instead of tackling the subject directly, by discussing the political breakdown between North and South, and then following the warring armies as they batter each other for four years, Hahn takes a different route altogether. He uses the Civil War to explain how America became a nation-state with centralized power. He does this by focusing a lot on the West, which had proved a bedeviling Gordian knot in antebellum America. Once the war began, and Southern opposition moved to an entirely different arena, Lincoln used his authority to carve out territories, pass a homestead law, introduce new states (beholden to the Republican Party), and lay railroad tracks to ensure that those new (and loyal) states and territories were connected to the rest of the country. Hahn’s oblique approach encompasses a diversity of viewpoints. A Nation Without Borders is often told from the perspective of marginalized groups. He is dedicated to treating these groups as active participants, with agency and ability to influence their own outcomes. You see this especially during the Reconstruction phase, where he spotlights activities within the black community itself, rather than simply pitting white Republicans against white Democrats, with blacks passively awaiting the outcome. It is important to state, if it hasn’t been clear thus far, that A Nation Without Borders is not a narrative history. It is not written in a novelistic style; it does not have big set pieces; it is not peppered with dynamic biographical sketches; it does not even hew to a rigid chronology. It is, instead, an interpretive history. Hahn is interested in the big social, economic, and political movements, and what those movements meant on a larger level. Hahn’s purpose dictates his writing style. He cannot, after all, rely on novelistic prose or gritty details when his view is much wider-angled. That does not mean A Nation Without Borders is a turgidly phrased academic treatise descended from some ivory tower where readable sentences go to die. Hahn writes fluidly and crisply, explaining his concepts in clear, unadorned language. He does a masterful job marshaling and organizing his research. This is no mean feat when your bibliography is over 50 pages long. I never got lost during A Nation Without Borders. I never finished a paragraph and scratched my chin wondering what the hell I’d just read. I moved through the text 50 pages at a time, which I consider a testament to Hahn’s abilities. (I never expected to be so engaged by the Greenback Movement. So color me surprised!). A Nation Without Borders is not a triumphalist history. Hahn delivers some harsh critiques, and some of this history is pretty glum. Yet Hahn is surprisingly optimistic in his epilogue: Six decades earlier [during the Civil War], the country had been unhinged by the largest of a series of rebellions, this by slaveholders who had ridden the cotton plant to enormous wealth... But in mobilizing to defeat the slaveholders’ challenge, the Republican state empowered new classes of industrialists and financiers and sought to extend its authority over the far reaches of American territory. Forcing the rebellious states to surrender, abolishing the slave property that had undergirded their power, enlisting slaves into the military, establishing birthright citizenship, and giving their party a basis in the South, the Republicans also proclaimed the sovereignty of a new nation-state…For a time, this social and political revolution moved further than anyone could have imagined in 1861, certainly further than any revolution of its time had moved. Former slaves were voting, holding office, and helping to create new polities and civil societies. Former slaveholders had been deprived of their most valuable property, weakened on the ground, and driven from effective national power. Petty producers were fighting to assert popular control over the greenback money supply, and skilled workers were fighting for an eight-hour day…A battle for the future of the nation was clearly being waged.The “battle for the future” did not end in 1910, of course. There would be fierce pushback against the strides that had been made; this pushback required further “rebellion”, engendering more backlash, in a seesaw struggle for progress that continues to this day. Hahn demonstrates that the road to American advancement – to the achievement of her stated aspirations – is not smooth, and not nearly complete. But the battle continues. (I received a copy of A Nation Without Borders from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review).
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