America and the Americas: The United States in the Western Hemisphere

America and the Americas: The United States in the Western Hemisphere

America and the Americas: The United States in the Western Hemisphere

America and the Americas: The United States in the Western Hemisphere


In this completely revised and updated edition of America and the Americas, Lester D. Langley covers the long period from the colonial era into the twenty-first century, providing an interpretive introduction to the history of U.S. relations with Latin America, the Caribbean, and Canada. Langley draws on the other books in the series to provide a more richly detailed and informed account of the role and place of the United States in the hemisphere. In the process, he explains how the United States, in appropriating the values and symbolism identified with "America," has attained a special place in the minds and estimation of other hemispheric peoples.

Discussing the formal structures and diplomatic postures underlying U.S. policy making, Langley examines the political, economic, and cultural currents that often have frustrated inter-American progress and accord. Most important, the greater attention given to U.S. relations with Canada in this edition provides a broader and deeper understanding of the often controversial role of the nation in the hemisphere and, particularly, in North America.

Commencing with the French-British struggle for supremacy in North America in the French and Indian War, Langley frames the story of the American experience in the Western Hemisphere through four distinct eras. In the first era, from the 1760s to the 1860s, the fundamental character of U.S. policy in the hemisphere and American values about other nations and peoples of the Americas took form. In the second era, from the 1870s to the 1930s, the United States fashioned a continental and then a Caribbean empire. From the mid-1930s to the early 1960s, the paramount issues of the inter-American experience related to the global crisis. In the final part of the book, Langley details the efforts of the United States to carry out its political and economic agenda in the hemisphere from the early 1960s to the onset of the twenty-first century, only to be frustrated by governments determined to follow an independent course. Over more than 250 years of encounter, however, the peoples of the Americas have created human bonds and cultural exchanges that stand in sharp contrast to the formal and often conflictive hemisphere crafted by governments.


America and the Americas was published in 1989 as the first volume in what has become a successful series on the relations between the United States and the other countries of the Western Hemisphere. That series—The United States and the Americas—has achieved widespread recognition from U.S., Canadian, and Latin American historians and other social scientists for its efforts to incorporate social and especially cultural dynamics into the history of inter-American relations. Several of the volumes have gone into new editions. The approach of the 2010 bicentennial of the Latin American wars of independence (1810–25) provides ample reason for a thorough reassessment of several of the major themes I explored in the 1989 volume.

Since 1989, there have been fundamental changes in the relationship between the United States and the other nations and regions of the Western Hemisphere: Canada became a full-fledged member of the inter-American system; the United States, Canada, and Mexico have crafted the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which some advocates believe will become the foundation for a North American Union; the United States launched a major diplomatic effort to create a hemispheric free trade area; and in 1994 the first of several Summits of the Americas convened in Miami. These and similar undertakings reinforced older economic, political, and cultural bonds. In different ways, each precipitated widespread and sometimes harsh outcries against U.S. domination, thus muting President George W. Bush’s affirmation—announced before the calamitous 11 September 2001, attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon—that the twenty-first century will be the “century of the Americas.”

People—especially people on the move—have begun to transform the hemisphere and especially the United States in ways and to degrees that governments, including the most powerful government in history, could not have anticipated. Early in the twenty-first century, Hispanics (60 percent of whom . . .

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