Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

Among the Powers of the Earth: The American Revolution and the Making of a New World Empire

by Eliga H. Gould


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For most Americans, the Revolution's main achievement is summed up by the phrase "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Yet far from a straightforward attempt to be free of Old World laws and customs, the American founding was also a bid for inclusion in the community of nations as it existed in 1776. America aspired to diplomatic recognition under international law and the authority to become a colonizing power itself.

As Eliga Gould shows in this reappraisal of American history, the Revolution was an international transformation of the first importance. To conform to the public law of Europe's imperial powers, Americans crafted a union nearly as centralized as the one they had overthrown, endured taxes heavier than any they had faced as British colonists, and remained entangled with European Atlantic empires long after the Revolution ended.

No factor weighed more heavily on Americans than the legally plural Atlantic where they hoped to build their empire. Gould follows the region's transfiguration from a fluid periphery with its own rules and norms to a place where people of all descriptions were expected to abide by the laws of Western Europe-"civilized" laws that precluded neither slavery nor the dispossession of Native Americans.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674416949
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/01/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Eliga H. Gould is Professor of History at the University of New Hampshire.

What People are Saying About This

Frank Cogliano

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

Peter S. Onuf

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

Alison Games

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

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