Author(s): Steven Hahn
The era from 1830 to 1910 witnessed massive transformations in how people lived, worked, thought about themselves, and struggled to live and thrive. It also witnessed the birth of economic and political institutions that still shape our world. America's population grew more than ten-fold. The country expanded to the Pacific coast and then out into the Pacific itself. Civil warfare erupted. Three centuries of slavery ended. Native peoples were suppressed and remanded to reservations. Massive waves of immigrants from Europe and Asia arrived. From an agricultural society with a weak central government, the US became an urban and industrial society in which government assumed a greater and greater role in the framing of social and economic life. A Nation Without Borders's signature achievement is to place this history in a wholly new light, by capturing the tensions and contradictions between nation and empire. His new interpretations include the fact that slavery was national not sectional, that Jim Crow racism initially emerged in the Northeast and Midwest, that "sectionalism" was less a fact of politics than an important political construct in the battle over slavery's future, and that the principle struggle of the period was not between the North and South but rather between the Northeast and the Mississippi Valley for control of the continent and hemisphere. Hahn's strikingly original thesis resets the familiar framework of that of a country expanding from colony. He shows how, the United States had, from its colonial origins and birth as a union, significant imperial ambitions on the continent and in the hemisphere, and that the United States only became a nation, a nation-state - as many others did - in the midst of a massive political and military struggle in the 1860s. A nation is understood to have clearly defined borders, which delineate sovereignty and belonging. Empires, though they may expand and contract, lack real borders; they are more about vectors, claims, and alliances. By 1910, as the "long" nineteenth century came to a close, the United States stood as one of the most formidable empires on the globe.
"This magisterial and authoritative monograph is a must-read for anyone interested in U.S. history." Library Journal (starred review) "A compelling examination of the long, divisive road to America's emergence, in 1919, as 'the most formidable power in the world.'" -- Kirkus Given Hahn s unimpeachable body of knowledge, readers can be confident that they re getting the most current understanding of the history of the U.S .bears reading by all serious students of the American past. --Publishers Weekly Advance praise for A Nation Without Borders Steven Hahn s breathtakingly original history of the United States which begins and ends in Mexico, naturally strikes like lightning. It illuminates the complex sweep of forces that came together in the decades surrounding the Civil War to forge the American nation. Only Hahn could have written such a revelatory book. Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao A bold reinterpretation of the American nineteenth century, this tour de force bristles with fresh insights gained from often surprising vantage points... It confirms Hahn s position as one of the most important interpreters of the American experience. A must read for anyone interested in the history of the United States. --Sven Beckert, author of Empire of Cotton Steven Hahn has given us an ambitious and marvelously grounded rethinking of our history during eighty of its most turbulent, violent and creative years. It challenges some of our most fundamental predilections and reimagines how the nation we know came to be. It is guaranteed to rearrange your mental furniture. Elliott West, author of The Contested Plains "
Steven Hahn is the Roy F. and Jeannette P. Nichols Professor in American History at the University of Pennsylvania. He lives in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania.