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The Genesis of America

Book description

The Genesis of America investigates the ways in which US foreign policy contributed to the formation of an American national consciousness. Interpreting American nationalism as a process of external demarcation, Jasper M. Trautsch argues that, for a sense of national self to emerge, the US needed to be disentangled from its most important European reference points: Great Britain and France. As he shows, foreign-policy makers could therefore promote American nationalism by provoking foreign crises and wars with these countries, hereby creating external threats that would bind the fragile union together. By reconstructing how foreign policy was thus used as a nation-building instrument, Trautsch provides an answer to the puzzling question of how Americans - lacking a shared history and culture of their own and justifying their claim for independent nationhood by appeals to universal rights - could develop a sense of particularity after the conclusion of the Revolutionary War.

Reviews

'Jasper M. Trautsch convincingly shows how early American foreign relations and wars were dictated by domestic politics. His lucid, informed, and coherent account illuminates the shaping of American national consciousness. It should fascinate a wide range of readers.'

Daniel Walker Howe - Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought:  The Transformation of America, 1815–1848

'Jasper M. Trautsch makes the best-grounded case to date that foreign policy disputes were central in the formation of an American national identity. His work is essential reading for all early Americanists.'

J. C. A. Stagg - University of Virginia

'Trautsch boldly argues that American national identity emerged as part of a debate on foreign policy between Federalists and Republicans between 1789 and 1815. The roller coaster of European international affairs - including threats to international trade, the French Revolution, and the rise of Napoleon - sparked internal debate over threats to national interest. Each party viewed itself as promoting US interests, the Federalists by provoking a ‘quasi-war with France in order to disentangle America from her Revolutionary War ally’, and the Republicans by ‘disentangl[ing] America from her former mother country’ (as the author writes in the conclusion). … The assemblage of primary sources, including articles, editorials, cartoons, broadsides, pamphlets, speeches, reports, debates, formal diplomatic protocols, memoranda, and records is fascinating. … Highly recommended.'

M. L. Russell Source: Choice

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