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Publisher's Summary

From a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian, the powerful story of a fragile nation as it expands across a contested continent.  

In this beautifully written history of America’s formative period, a preeminent historian upends the traditional story of a young nation confidently marching to its continent-spanning destiny. The newly constituted United States actually emerged as a fragile, internally divided union of states contending still with European empires and other independent republics on the North American continent. Native peoples sought to defend their homelands from the flood of American settlers through strategic alliances with the other continental powers. The system of American slavery grew increasingly powerful and expansive, its vigorous internal trade in Black Americans separating parents and children, husbands and wives. Bitter party divisions pitted elites favoring strong government against those, like Andrew Jackson, espousing a democratic populism for white men. Violence was both routine and organized: The United States invaded Canada, Florida, Texas, and much of Mexico, and forcibly removed most of the Native peoples living east of the Mississippi. At the end of the period, the United States, its conquered territory reaching the Pacific, remained internally divided, with sectional animosities over slavery growing more intense.

Taylor’s elegant history of this tumultuous period offers indelible miniatures of key characters from Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth to Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Margaret Fuller. It captures the high-stakes political drama as Jackson and Adams, Clay, Calhoun, and Webster contend over slavery, the economy, Indian removal, and national expansion. A ground-level account of American industrialization conveys the everyday lives of factory workers and immigrant families. And the immersive narrative puts us on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Mexico City, Quebec, and the Cherokee capital, New Echota. Absorbing and chilling, American Republics illuminates the continuities between our own social and political divisions and the events of this formative period.

©2021 Alan Taylor (P)2021 Recorded Books Inc.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about American Republics

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    5 out of 5 stars

Helps the dots of history to today.

Alan Taylor, in his dedication to helping us understand our own origins as a nation, is one of the most patriotic historians we will ever have. The greatest threat to any nation, religion, or even relationship occurs when people and movements try to advance a destructive, selfish agenda under the false flag of a shared, cherished principle such as freedom, equality, or even religious faith. While we may not agree as to who are the current bearers of the false flags, this dynamic is something every American would probably agree threatens society today. In a fast-moving, engaging style, Taylor logically lays out how false flags were sewn, raised, and waved in the time period this book covers to justify slavery and dispossession of native lands. This is hardly an attack on the people of America as he quotes countless people -white, black, and native- who speak out against those waving the false flags.

The book explains so much of the period, step by step. Taylor shows how that fear that if Britain and France were left to control territory on the continent, they could destroy the union. This fueled Americans rush to dispossess Indians of their lands. Similarly, people feared that if all the land were not under American control in the hands of slave states or states with fugitive slave laws, slaves could escape and then help others to revolt against whites and escape. You see that Manifest Destiny in its time was not so much a visionary prediction as a defensive position. You will learn about black and white abolitionists and about white people opposed slavery in the west, not because they were moral, but simply because they feared the power of the large plantation owner to control the wealth in the way corporations can today. Over and over again, you see where the stated reasons for slavery and the violent dispossession of land were cloaked as “freedom to have property” or “saving the savages”. Again, the author makes the case by using the words of the many moral Americans who wrote and spoke against the hypocrisy and brutality within the time period. He reveals the threats to liberty and justice for all by using the words of people who spoke up on behalf of those principals.

You learn about how urbanization and the separation from the workers and owners unfolded, the beginnings of the Mormons, how Andrew Jackson came to be Andrew Jackson and how he created a coalition of working people and how that coalition later falls apart. You will see how land was taken from Native Americans through pseudo-legal means. He covers the Southwest, including how the ranchos were created from the missions, how white people from the East and from Europe came to obtain these ranchos. There is the birth of the different Texases, California, and Oregon. The unfolding of the Mexican-American War, and the lead-up to the Civil War. If you want a handle on this time period, presented in a very cause and effect way, this book is an excellent overview that will foster many questions and much further reading in your mind. Read it! It’s a great book that will give you a much clearer understanding of the past and better ability to explain to yourself and others how we got here. It’s an informative and a super easy read/listen.

6 people found this helpful

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Well researched, but unreasonably biased

This author has studied US history during the noted period in an amazing level of detail. The accounts of statements made and trends at the time is very good. I’m happy to have consumed these accounts. Where the book doesn’t add up for me regards the overwhelming reporting of any and all information disparaging to the people and culture of the time. There is no denying that this author has accurately found things said and done, but I question the historical balance. If one consumes this author's account (which entails over and over and over and over really despicable behavior) with modern day ethos, morals, and judgement, then a conclusion can be that the US was a terribly awful place in the late 1700s and early 1800s. [Well of course it was horrible. No electricity, sanitation, modern medicine. And since the dawn of man, the world was practicing slavery without question. Awful.] Historians wanting to describe life in the US during past centuries will conduct their study and decide what info to include to produce an account that achieves a purpose. After hours and hours of this book, I was convinced that the author had a heavy bias. I don’t know the reason, but I do know that the book is tainted by this bias. And here is what doesn’t add up to me. If the US, as of 1850, was the horribly mean, evil, and racist country that this author "paints", then how is it possible that the US does what it did just a few years later? If the author is (on balance) accurate, how did enough of the US decide slavery must be abolished? Why would a president risk all and stand for the cause? Why would a country fight a ghastly civil war with 600,000 casualties (~1.5 million with associated disease) if the majority position of the citizens were based in a culture that was evil and racist? I cannot reconcile this authors account with what I know to be fact regarding the evolution of the US. It’s like an author in the year 2200 digging up every bad thing said and done in south Chicago ~2022 (and by Trump & Co. just to add some nasty politicians in the mix) and writing a book that portrays this as some kind of norm for the US.

1 person found this helpful

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  • S.
  • 03-15-22

A Portrait, not a political history

This book has a variable range of ratings. What I think is the cause is that this (as the title says), is a Continental history. Mr. Taylor has given us a portrait of America from revolution to the eve of the civil war. This is an important distinction as it reflects more about the humans living on the continent and less on the so called “philosophical debates” which was sophistry explaining our “peculiar” history. This is a corrective of how we truly acted and not how we wished it had been.
My quibble has to do with a bit of repetitiveness in some chapters that an editor should have caught. It was worth the time considering Taylor’s arguments and is recommended.

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Excellent overview of the years that formed our nation

This is an excellent overview of the years that formed our nation. It is, at times, painful to listen to the pain and carnage we inflicted to those consider lesser humans. This deep understanding of what we did as a nation should be required reading to all.

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The Down Side of America's History

Interesting and concise historical remdering of a formative period in America's emergence as a nation. Unfornately unbalenced as it emphasizes the most negative interpretations and motivations that drove the political process in the United States from its infancy in 1783 to 1850 on the the brink of a cival war.

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“White Supremacy” would have been a better title

The book seemed almost completely focused on White Supremacy. If you are looking for historical facts to justify the progressive racial dogma of 2021, this is the book for you.

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not much to add over Taylor's other work

very disappointing given Taylor's other great works. i would not recommend. first negative review I've ever feft obliged to leave for an audio book.

In short, read his other fantastic works.

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Excellent and depressing history of the US

A wonderful and eyes-open portrayal of American history - the rot of the root of racism in the United States is starkly outlined. It gives me pause to realize that we owe our national borders and current political divide to a disgusting history of mob violence and slavery, so opposed to the ideal of democratic republicanism. May we outgrow this cancer in our Republic.

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  • Alex DAnna
  • 01-29-22

Outstanding Narrative of US Racist History

A remarkable history of what I’ve learned to be true about the country of my birth- it was founded by a racist theft of land and property that decimated native Americans and appropriated the greatest assets of the American lands to foreign born whites. Changed my entire perspective on US history. Wish this was taught in high school as required reading for all students

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 05-25-21

All together now and it works

I missed Republics in the plural and so I was surprised that American Republics dealt with, not just the USA, but also Mexico and Haiti and (that famous republic) Canada too. Surprised, and a bit wary - I mean, who wants to read about Canadian history? However, Alan Taylor gets the balance just right - mainly the USA, but set in a sensible geographical and historical context - this book just works - an eye-opener for me. It is a bit slow to begin with but it soon hits its stride and when we get to the horrific history of the way 'Americans' treated enslaved Americans and Native Americans it was astounding to see how everyone else behaved with more humanity than Americans. It would be difficult to imagine how anybody could have behaved worse. And I love America in spite of the behaviour of some Americans then and, sadly, now. Well done Alan Taylor.
Adam Ardrey