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Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire Hardcover – February 13, 2012
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Eliga H. Gould . . . shows how the dynamics of international relations transformed the Atlantic world as the United States entered it and thereafter helped to define the country itself. His shrewd analysis offers a valuable perspective on American history during a formative era.
-- William Anthony Hay, Wall Street Journal
Among the Powers of the Earth . . . is notable for its exceptional use of little known sources, introducing a whole new cast of characters to the historical narrative and making, for this reason alone, a brilliant contribution.
-- David Hendrickson, author of Peace Pact: The Lost World of the American Founding
[Gould] writes as if he had been there and remembers it all. . . . When he gets going, you feel like the historical actors are his neighbors and the plotlines are the latest gossip in town.
-- Christina Duffy Ponsa, Jotwell
Gould's analysis of "treaty-worthiness" within the international legal system of the era [is] an illuminating way of understanding US-world relations . . . . The book--and its key organizing concept--work very well in the classroom.
--Christopher McKnight Nichols, American Historical Association Blog
[A] compelling reinterpretation of the American Revolution. . . . Gould's story is not so much the saga of American national independence as it is an analysis of a steady internationalisation of the European law of nations, [which] would ultimately embrace the United States as an equal to the European powers.
-- Konstantin Dierks, Itinerario
A subtle, complex, and persuasive book. The breadth of Gould's vision is impressive, combining diplomatic, legal, and intellectual history in order to examine the emergence of the United States alongside the states and empires of Europe. Among the Powers of the Earth makes a notable and original contribution to our understanding of the American Revolution, the British Empire, the history of slavery and anti-slavery, and international relations. It will become a landmark in the field. (Frank Cogliano, University of Edinburgh)
Offers a fresh and provocative point of departure for understanding our national history. Simultaneously building on and rejecting British imperial efforts to extend law and civility in America and the world, Revolutionary Patriots struggled to secure independence and consolidate their own imperial claims by making the new nation "treaty-worthy." Gould shows that American nation-making was shaped by unpredictable developments in the dynamic and dangerous world Revolutionaries sought to join, on terms set and shaped by other nations and peoples. This is much more than a history of early American foreign relations; national history and world history -- nation-making and world-making -- are, as Gould brilliantly demonstrates, inextricably linked. Gracefully written and persuasively argued, Among the Powers of the Earth is a major contribution to American historical scholarship. (Peter S. Onuf, University of Virginia)
No nation is an island, not least the United States. This innovative book recasts the American Revolution by revealing the international forces that shaped its course. The United States, Gould demonstrates, was "an entangled nation," one whose survival hinged on its ability to join the international community. This new position came at a price for slaves and Amerindians, who languished on the margins of the young nation as stateless people. It is a powerful story, persuasively told in this imaginative and wide-ranging work. After reading Gould's erudite and compelling study, no one will look at the American Revolution or the new nation in the same way. (Alison Games, Georgetown University)
[Gould's] shrewd analysis offers a valuable perspective on American history during a formative era...Scholars of European history have long argued for the primacy of foreign affairs in driving state formation and shaping politics. But American observers--scholars and generalists alike--have rarely applied this idea to the history of their own country before 1900. America in its formative stages is usually viewed apart from the international system--as a promised land separated from the rest of the world by two oceans and shaped by its own lofty ideals. But in fact, as Gould shows, America came into its own only by claiming full membership in the community of nations. Gould is right to give greater attention to this neglected theme in American history. (William Anthony Hay Wall Street Journal 2012-03-21)
Gould's brilliant analysis ranges chronologically beginning in the mid-1750s, moving through the American Revolution and terminating with Monroe's Doctrine of 1823, which firmly expressed U.S. sovereignty and announced the country's position at the 'head of a new hemispheric community of nations.' The uniqueness of Gould's argument is his extended examination of how the avoidance of war increased the sustainability of the U.S. as a 'slaveholding republic.' (B. C. Odom Choice 2012-09-01)
From the Inside Flap
For most people today, the American Revolution is best summed up by the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Yet as the Declaration of Independence makes clear, America's founding was also a bid for acceptance by "the powers of the earth." Even as they strove to be free from Old World imperialism, Americans aspired to diplomatic recognition in Europe, and they sought the right to found an empire of their own.
As Eliga Gould shows in this prize-winning book, the quest to become a treaty worthy nation played an enormous -- though often overlooked -- role in the American republic's early history. To conform to the international law of Europe's imperial powers, Americans crafted a union nearly as centralized as the one they'd overthrown. They also endured taxes and military burdens heavier than any they had faced as British colonists, and they remained entangled with Europe's other empires long after the Revolution ended.
No factor weighed more heavily on the participants in this story than the apparent lawlessness of the lands and waters where Americans built their empire. In six lively, accessible chapters, Gould shows how the revolution eventually changed the New World as a whole, from a fluid periphery with its own rules and norms to a place where people of all descriptions were subject to the treaty law of Europe -- a "civilized" law that precluded neither the exploitation of slaves nor the dispossession of Native Americans.
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