Race, Nation, and Empire in American History

Edited by James T. Campbell, Matthew Pratt Guterl, Robert G. Lee

392 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, notes, index

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-0-8078-5828-8
    Published: September 2007
  • eBook ISBN: 978-0-8078-7275-8
    Published: December 2017

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While public debates over America's current foreign policy often treat American empire as a new phenomenon, this lively collection of essays offers a pointed reminder that visions of national and imperial greatness were a cornerstone of the new country when it was founded. In fact, notions of empire have long framed debates over western expansion, Indian removal, African slavery, Asian immigration, and global economic dominance, and they persist today despite the proliferation of anti-imperialist rhetoric.

In fifteen essays, distinguished historians examine the central role of empire in American race relations, nationalism, and foreign policy from the founding of the United States to the twenty-first century. The essays trace the global expansion of American merchant capital, the rise of an evangelical Christian mission movement, the dispossession and historical erasure of indigenous peoples, the birth of new identities, and the continuous struggles over the place of darker-skinned peoples in a settler society that still fundamentally imagines itself as white. Full of transnational connections and cross-pollinations, of people appearing in unexpected places, the essays are also stories of people being put, quite literally, in their place by the bitter struggles over the boundaries of race and nation. Collectively, these essays demonstrate that the seemingly contradictory processes of boundary crossing and boundary making are and always have been intertwined.


James T. Campbell, Brown University

Ruth Feldstein, Rutgers University-Newark

Kevin K. Gaines, University of Michigan

Matt Garcia, Brown University

Matthew Pratt Guterl, Indiana University

George Hutchinson, Indiana University

Matthew Frye Jacobson, Yale University

Prema Kurien, Syracuse University

Robert G. Lee, Brown University

Eric Love, University of Colorado, Boulder

Melani McAlister, George Washington University

Joanne Pope Melish, University of Kentucky

Louise M. Newman, University of Florida

Vernon J. Williams Jr., Indiana University

Natasha Zaretsky, Southern Illinois University Carbondale

About the Authors

James T. Campbell is professor of American civilization, Africana studies, and history at Brown University. Robert G. Lee is associate professor of American civilization at Brown University.
For more information about James T. Campbell, visit the Author Page.

Matthew Pratt Guterl is director of the American studies program and associate professor of African American and African diaspora studies at Indiana University.
For more information about Matthew Pratt Guterl, visit the Author Page.

Robert G. Lee is associate professor of American civilization at Brown University.
For more information about Robert G. Lee, visit the Author Page.


"Offer[s] something new, important, and exciting. Should be read cover to cover. Fascinating introduction. . . . Presents new models for collaboration and the final product is a wild and wonderful ride."--Journal of American History

"[A] diverse collection of essays."--CLIO

"A strong addition to the libraries of historians on race, empire, nation formation, gender, and diaspora studies."--Journal of American Ethnic History

"The essays are without exception lucidly written, engaging, and critical yet empathetic. . . . [An] impressive collection."--Journal of Southern History

"Focusing on race and deploying a capacious notion of empire that ranges from formal empire to individual and collective transnational experiences, these quite imaginative and diverse essays open up many new and important avenues for understanding the workings of race, the meanings of American nationalism, and the dimensions of empire."--Thomas Bender, New York University

"The contributors to this volume analyze the entanglements of race, nation, and empire through scrupulously close readings of texts and artifacts as well as through intensive historiographical analyses of cultural contexts. They convincingly demonstrate how economic, political, and military expansionism went hand in hand with the rise of the nation-state, making empire a constitutive feature of global modernity."--Donald E. Pease, Dartmouth College, coeditor of Cultures of U.S. Imperialism