The Penguin History of the United States

A Nation Without Borders

The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830-1910

Publisher: Viking
A Pulitzer Prize–winning historian’s "breathtakingly original" (Junot Diaz) reinterpretation of the eight decades surrounding the Civil War. "Capatious [and] buzzing with ideas."  --The Boston Globe

Volume 3 in the Penguin History of the United States, edited by Eric Foner

In this ambitious story of American imperial conquest and capitalist development, Pulitzer Prize–winning historian Steven Hahn takes on the conventional histories of the nineteenth century and offers a perspective that promises to be as enduring as it is controversial. It begins and ends in Mexico and, throughout, is internationalist in orientation. It challenges the political narrative of “sectionalism,” emphasizing the national footing of slavery and the struggle between the northeast and Mississippi Valley for continental supremacy. It places the Civil War in the context of many domestic rebellions against state authority, including those of Native Americans. It fully incorporates the trans-Mississippi west, suggesting the importance of the Pacific to the imperial vision of political leaders and of the west as a proving ground for later imperial projects overseas. It reconfigures the history of capitalism, insisting on the centrality of state formation and slave emancipation to its consolidation. And it identifies a sweeping era of “reconstructions” in the late-nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that simultaneously laid the foundations for corporate liberalism and social democracy. 

The era from 1830 to 1910 witnessed massive transformations in how people lived, worked, thought about themselves, and struggled to thrive. It also witnessed the birth of economic and political institutions that still shape our world. From an agricultural society with a weak central government, the United States became an urban and industrial society in which government assumed a greater and greater role in the framing of social and economic life. As the book ends, the United States, now a global economic and political power, encounters massive warfare between imperial powers in Europe and a massive revolution on its southern border―the remarkable Mexican Revolution―which together brought the nineteenth century to a close while marking the important themes of the twentieth.


Chapter One


Centers and Peripheries

As he rode northward out of San Luis Potos’ at the head of an army of six thousand in early 1836, General Antonio L—pez de Santa Anna intended to crush a rebellion in the state of Coahuila y Tejas and reassert the hold of Mexico'...
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“A massive and masterly account of America’s political and economic transformation between 1830 and 1910 . . . Hahn describes his book as telling ‘a familiar story in an unfamiliar way.’ It is much more than that. Attempting a synthesis of a century’s worth of American history is a daunting task. Writing one as provocative and learned . . . as this one is a triumph, nothing less.”—David Oshinsky, The Washington Post

“Rarely has there been a more forthright challenge to old stereotypes than in Steven Hahn’s A Nation Without Borders, his distinguished volume in the Penguin History of the United States on the period 1830-1910 . . . rich in insight on the making of the US during a crucial period.”—Peter Clarke, Financial Times

“Vivid detail . . .  A Nation Without Borders is a detailed, dense . . . His chronicle is breathtaking in its scope and brilliant in its subtle and original conceptualization of the nation during this period. It is often affecting, too, especially in its descriptions of labor activism . . . There is a cautionary tale here for our own time.”—John Stauffer, The Wall Street Journal

“In his comprehensive A Nation Without Borders, Hahn . . . provides the most sweeping indictment to date of the American appetite for conquest.”— The New York Times Book Review

"Capacious [and] buzzing with ideas."—The Boston Globe

“Brisk and thought-provoking . . .  Readable and illuminating, and Hahn's thesis will lead many writers, students, and history buffs to rethink what they have learned from a new perspective.”—The Weekly Standard

This 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

"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

“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