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The Genesis of America

The Genesis of America
US Foreign Policy and the Formation of National Identity, 1793–1815


Part of Cambridge Studies in US Foreign Relations

  • Date Published: October 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Hardback
  • isbn: 9781108428248

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Reconsiders the conventional narrative of the emergence of the American nation, by emphasizing the importance of foreign enemies and external threats
    • Covers many major political and diplomatic events and developments of the early republic, from Washington's Neutrality Proclamation to the War of 1812, and illuminates how intricately domestic politics and foreign policy were intertwined by putting identity debates at the center of the analysis
    • Engages myriad sources ranging from newspapers and pamphlets to congressional debates and diplomatic correspondence
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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, Choice

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    Product details

    • Date Published: October 2018
    • format: Hardback
    • isbn: 9781108428248
    • length: 328 pages
    • dimensions: 235 x 157 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.6kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Political ideologies and American identity in the era of the French Revolution
    2. Foreign policies of unneutrality and the Jay Treaty
    3. Federalists and the origins of the Quasi-War
    4. Disentangling America from France
    5. Republicans and the origins of the War of 1812
    6. Disentangling America from Great Britain

  • Author

    Jasper M. Trautsch, Universität Regensburg, Germany
    Jasper M. Trautsch is a lecturer in American history at the Universität Regensburg, Germany. In 2013, his dissertation was awarded the Rolf Kentner Dissertation Prize for an outstanding work in the field of American studies. He is the editor of Civic Nationalisms in Global Perspective (forthcoming), and the author of numerous articles on US foreign policy and American nationalism in Early American Studies, the Journal of Military History, National Identities, Global Affairs, and Critical Muslim.

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