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Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America 1st Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 60 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0199746880
ISBN-10: 0199746885
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Editorial Reviews


"[A] readable synthetic study of smuggling and attempts to police it... Moving swiftly through more than three centuries, the narrative resembles its more proficient subjects, cutting across subfield borders to reveal Americans' historical entanglements with illicit trade." --Journal of American History

"In Smuggler Nation, Peter Andreas recounts the well-worn story of American independence less as a lofty quest for freedom per se than as a struggle for freedom from onerous trade restrictions. He points out that many of the important freedoms protected by the Constitution, though they owed their intellectual pedigree to Locke and Montesquieu, had their origin in the travails of colonial smugglers trying to get molasses or gunpowder or Madeira past British customs agents." --Eric Felten, The Wall Street Journal

"Deftly explains how the battle lines of the American War of Independence were drawn largely because of people's varied and often self-serving relationships to smuggling... Smuggling is here to stay, and how we cope with this most American of practices will define our destiny in the years to come." --Cam Martin, The Daily Beast

"In this captivating new history, Brown University political science professor Andreas documents smuggling in America from the colonial 'golden age of illicit trade' through the Industrial Revolution and on into the current 'war on drugs'... Throughout the riveting text, Andreas also discusses the sociopolitical climates that gave rise to these storms of illicit commerce. Far from romanticizing or condoning illegal trade, Andreas convincingly argues that the flow of illicit goods has defined and shaped the nation, both in terms of who and what goes in and out, and how society reacts with regulatory policies. A valuable and entertaining read for historians and policymakers." --Publishers Weekly

"In this well-researched history, the author examines illegal commerce in the United States from its earliest days into the modern era... An illuminating look at the historical impact of America's illicit economy." --Kirkus Reviews

"In this terrific book, Peter Andreas shows that illicit trade is as American as apple pie."
--Darrell West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

"Smuggler Nation is a tour de force. Porous borders and the efforts to seal them are not new to the 21st century--Andreas convincingly shows they have defined the American experience." --James Goldgeier, Dean, School of International Service, American University

"Through his extensive historical research, Andreas shows us that illicit trade in America is not an aberration but has in fact shaped the modern economy in fundamental ways. An extraordinary re-narrating of familiar episodes that makes visible America's hidden connections with underworlds and parallel worlds." --Saskia Sassen, author of Territory, Authority, Rights

"Americans have long projected national power through open, free, and legal markets. Andreas, one of the world's leading scholars of the dark side of globalization, presents us with a fascinating account of the role of illicit trade in the making of the American nation itself. This iconoclastic and timely book is an engaging and accessible primer for anyone seeking to understand the illicit dimensions of the global economy." --Louis W. Pauly, Professor and Chair, Political Science, University of Toronto

"An extraordinary retelling of the American epic. Peter Andreas shows us how smuggling shaped politics, economics and culture from colonial times to the present day. Meticulously researched and elegantly written, Smuggler Nation is an important contribution to the literature on American political development. Fascinating, powerful, persuasive, unexpected, lively, deep, and highly recommended." --James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and coauthor of The Heart of Power

About the Author

Peter Andreas is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He was previously an Academy Scholar at Harvard University, a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow on International Peace and Security. Andreas has written numerous books, published widely in scholarly journals and policy magazines, presented Congressional testimony, written op-eds for major newspapers, and provided frequent media commentary.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (February 14, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199746885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199746880
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 1.4 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (60 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #345,131 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By David Wineberg TOP 1000 REVIEWER on January 29, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Smuggler Nation rocks. It tells the unvarnished story behind the official and the legendary. It answers age-old questions about motives and assumptions. It speaks truth to power. And the truth is ugly.

The United States was born a smuggling nation. John Hancock, whose florid signature sits top and center on the Declaration of Independence, was one of the biggest smugglers of his era. His concern was not taxation without representation; he was fed up with British attempts to crack down on smuggling. As were many, many others. The Stamp Act wasn't the last straw; writs of assistance permitting Customs inspections was the last straw.

All through the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Civil War, Americans traded freely with both sides. They fed the British army in Canada in 1812 and armed the South in the Civil War. It was all just business as usual in a country renown for its piracy and theft. The US government encouraged theft and smuggling of machinery, which enabled New England to build a
worldbeating cloth manufacturing industry, all without paying licensing, royalties or even import fees. British workers were smuggled out of the country to man it all - tens of thousands of them. Foreigners were not allowed to own patents, thus permitting Americans to use the law to ensure lawbreaking.

Andreas traces an entire smuggling circuit from the Caribbean, where Americans picked up molasses to smuggle to their rum refineries, smuggling the rum into Europe, then down to Africa to pick up more slaves for the cane plantations in the Caribbean.

This was the mainstay of the US economy until the revolution. The US did not become the biggest slave importer for itself until after it was outlawed in the early 1800s.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Peter Andreas has provided a marvelous lens through which to view much of our modern political landscape. Once reminded of the deep influence of illicit trade on American (and global) development and relations through the past few centuries, it is very difficult to believe that current alarm over immigration, drugs and intellectual property is anything but tactical. One hundred years ago all of the nature-based drugs on the black market today were completely legal and virtually unregulated. American companies were busily cutting into the British-dominated Asian opium market. Bayer Pharmaceuticals invented the name "Heroin" for their over-the-counter opium-derivative (from a German word for "hero"). Two hundred years back we were urging craftsmen to break British law by illegally emigrating, and hopefully bringing along their machinery and tools. We formed alliances with pirates as it suited our military needs, were the major slave-trading nation long after we banned import of slaves to our own shores, banned alcohol for a short spell while bootleggers supplied Congressional and Presidential bars, and on and on and on. We whine about Chinese piracy of entertainment and software, but somehow forget that the U.S. Patent office started out by permitting inventions stolen in Europe to be claimed and subsequently defended by American thieves.

Today's demands to regain control of our border with Mexico become truly laughable when you confront the fact that the border has never been under anything like "control." And our century-old war on drugs is easy to understand as a beard for American expansionism and militarization of foreign relations on every continent, all while we are the major exporter of the most dangerous and arguably most addictive drug in common use: tobacco.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This is an interesting history of trade and its influence on the development of the United States. (I say 'United States' rather than the 'America' used in the book's title because the latter name carries with it a cloak of mythology that tends to obscure what actually took place in our nation's past.) In school, we study a lot about the political forces that shaped the country and much is made about the ways that immigrants came to "America" for freedom to do certain things, as well as the chance to be free from certain other things. Freedom to worship and freedom from class bias, for example.

However, not much is said about the freedom of commerce, although that was, and remains, one of the major attractions for people around the world to emigrate to the US. Now, of course, trade is quite regulated and trade laws are enforced, sometimes vigorously. Consider the vociferous allegations of multinational corporations that China steals intellectual property and many of its citizens are engaged in copyright infringement and patent violation -- a modern day type of piracy. Similarly, trade regulations existed during the US colonial period, but the limitations of technology made it more difficult to enforce them. Reading Peter Andreas's book makes one realize that commerce was perhaps the biggest driver of US growth, then and now, and that much of that commerce was illegal.

There's a saying that history is written by the victors and that certainly seems to apply in the case of US education. Official public school curricula praise the "patriots," for instance, who dumped tea into Boston Harbor, an event that went down in history as the famous Boston Tea Party.
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