Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917

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9780809028085: Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876-1917

A brilliant examination of national identity in a crucial period

The United States first announced its power on the international scene at the Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and first demonstrated that power during World War I. The years in between were a period of dramatic change, when the dynamics of industrialization rapidly accelerated the rate at which Americans were coming in contact with foreign peoples, both at home and abroad.
In Barbarian Virtues, Matthew Frye Jacobson shows how American conceptions of peoplehood, citizenship, and national identity were transformed in these crucial years by escalating economic and military involvements abroad and by the massive influx of immigrants at home. Drawing upon a diverse range
of sources--not only traditional political documents but also novels, travelogues, academic treatises, and art--Jacobson demonstrates the close relationship between immigration and expansionism. By bridging these two areas, so often left separate, he rethinks the texture of American political life in a keenly argued and persuasive history. Barbarian Virtues shows how these years set the stage for today's attitudes and ideas about "Americanism" and about immigrants and foreign policy, from Border Watch to the Gulf War.

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About the Author:

Matthew Frye Jacobson, associate professor of American studies at Yale, is the author of Whiteness of a Different Color and Special Sorrows. He lives in New York.

From Publishers Weekly:

A sense of moral outrage simmers throughout Barbarian Virtues, an outrage that tacitly informs Jacobson's exploration of U.S. attitudes toward immigration and foreign policy (which he sees as two sides of the same coin) in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but which is kept from boiling over until the last page. There, Jacobson concludes: "Despite some opposition, the United States consciously chose imperial power along with the antidemocratic baggage and even the bloodshed that entailed; and many Americans liked it." This is not really news. But Jacobson, a professor of American Studies at Yale and author of Whiteness of a Different Color, does have an interesting thesis: at a time when America depended on nonwhite foreigners as both reliable consumers of American products abroad and industrious workers in the U.S., it also reviled them as "primitives" in need of civilization and as potential threats to the national order. The strength of his book is the wealth of evidence it provides; referring to a wide range of documentation--from journalism to literature, political rhetoric to pseudo-scientific studies, Tarzan to Teddy Roosevelt--Jacobson explores every conceivable nuance of his thesis. He might have written a book with far greater resonance, however, had he devoted more than a few pages to sketching out how his thesis also applies to America today. Still, Jacobson succeeds in presenting an analysis of a crucial period in the development of American identity as forged in the simultaneous "crucible of immigration" at home and "empire-building" abroad. 24 pages of b&w photos not seen by PW. (Apr.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Jacobson, Matthew Frye
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