Book News: “American Nationalisms” Now Has a Home

When I was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge, I often walked past the Cambridge University Press bookstore that was directly in front of Kings College Chapel. They always had the “recent releases” on display, and I spent many hours skimming through their pages. I dreamt that one day I might add my own work to that long tradition of solid and sophisticated work. 

Well, I’m honored to share that I’m a little closer to that goal. Cambridge University Press has agreed to publish my book manuscript, “American Nationalisms: Imagining Union in an Age of Revolution.” It’s probably a clerical error. But until they come to their senses, I’m thrilled to be attached to such a prestigious publisher. 

Here is a brief summary of the project from my personal website:

This book seeks to identify the roots of America’s cultural tensions by chronicling the earliest cultivations of, as well as oppositions to, ideas of nationality during the country’s first fifty years of existence. It examines how the practice of nationalism took place in three specific contexts—Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina—between the end of the Revolution in 1783 through the Nullification crisis in 1832-33. American Nationalisms argues that conceptions of national identity varied dramatically during this period, and that assuming a unified narrative distorts a dynamic and diverse reality. And in doing so, it further demonstrates how theoretical constructions of nationalism were tethered to personal backgrounds, regional cultures, parochial concerns, and localized political systems.

Depictions of nationalism were more than just cultural rhetoric, a political by-product, or a partisan tool, though they certainly played all of those roles at various times. This manuscript argues that they also functioned as opportunities to think about community, cultural frameworks for understanding political union, and ideological instigators for policy, action, and thought. How one conceived America to be, or how one conceived America should be, led directly to political beliefs and practices. While a wide array of elements resulted in distinct American cultures moving apart from each other during the early nineteenth century, and though all these elements were interdependent and reciprocal, a crucial component was the growing chasm between how various states understood “nationalism” and “union.” In order to understand national fracturing, then, it is important to chart contestations over nationalism.

And finally, the book situates these cultural expressions within a broader and comparative Atlantic framework that includes similar debates that were taking place in Europe, especially in Brtain, France, and Germany.

Articles that draw from this project will appear in the spring issue of Early American Studies and the fall issue of Journal of the Early Rpublic. I’ll highlight those when they appear. 

I am working hard to revamp the introduction and conclusion, the only portions of the manuscript that still require substantive revision, and then it will go through the editing and production phase. If all goes to plan, it should arrive on bookshelves (including in the shop across from Kings College Chapel!) in about a year. 

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