Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519-1871

Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519-1871

Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519-1871

Fighting for America: The Struggle for Mastery in North America, 1519-1871

Synopsis

Prize winning author Jeremy Black traces the competition for control of North America from the landing of Spanish troops under Hernán Cortés in modern Mexico in 1519 to 1871 when, with the Treaty of Washington and the withdrawal of most British garrisons, Britain accepted American mastery in North America. In this wide-ranging narrative, Black makes clear that the process by which America gained supremacy was far from inevitable. The story Black tells is one of conflict, diplomacy, geopolitics, and politics. The eventual result was the creation of a United States of America that stretched from Atlantic to Pacific and dominated North America. The gradual withdrawal of France and Spain, the British accommodation to the expanding U.S. reality, the impact of the American Civil War, and the subjugation of Native peoples, are all carefully drawn out. Black emphasizes contingency not Manifest Destiny, and reconceptualizes American exceptionalism to take note of the pressures and impact of international competition.

Excerpt

America was the object of the war; the sentiments of the nation before
the war, and during the war, were fixed upon America only.

Anon., A Full and Free Enquiry into the Merits of the Peace (1765)

If there is no one way to present the past, then that is particularly the case for the topic of this book. There are key differences in context and approach, conceptualization and methodology, and the sounds range from the funeral laments for the indigenous cultures of North America, to the brash triumphant clarion calls of a supposed destiny for the American republic as it came to span the continent. History as the accounts of the past is more than the silent spectator to our tale, for part of its value is to make overt what are often implicit choices of approach and analysis. In making the implicit overt, we must turn first not to the actors in the tale, but rather to the writer and readers who clothe them with meaning. The readers are the key, for it is you who decide what to take from this book, but, by the nature of this book, you are unknown at this moment of the author’s creation. It is most unclear how many readers will be American, how many British, and how many from other countries; how much the readers will have prior knowledge of the subject, or indeed, more pertinently, relevant assumptions; and, lastly, the values of the readers, and their impact on their assessment of the subject, are unknown.

The writer is less important, but clearer in focus. Frequently, it is helpful reviewers who clarify this focus by drawing attention to the assumptions that can be seen in the work. These are assumptions that the author downplays in the Anglophone tradition, because of the intellec-

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