...an impressive synthesis of the United States in the 19th century ... Mr. Hahn redefines the sectional crisis that led to the Rebellion. It was 'not between the North and the South,' he argues, but between the antislavery Northeast and the slaveholding regions of the Mississippi Valley ... A Nation Without Borders is a detailed, dense and at times depressing book. Depressing because Mr. Hahn begins his story in 1830, with slaveholders ascendant, and ends in 1910, with industrialists triumphant ... his chronicle is breathtaking in its scope and brilliant in its subtle and original conceptualization of the nation during this period. It is often affecting, too, especially in its descriptions of labor activism.
...a massive and masterly account of America’s political and economic transformation between 1830 and 1910 ... Hahn paints the latter half of the 19th century as an era of unchecked corporate expansion and imperial conquest ... In portraying this era as a struggle between the haves and have-nots, Hahn leaves some key questions unanswered. While providing superb capsule summaries of individual reformers and collective protests against the new capitalist order, he doesn’t confront the issue of why so many of these movements failed to catch fire ... Attempting a synthesis of a century’s worth of American history is a daunting task. Writing one as provocative and learned, if at times predictable, as this one is a triumph, nothing less.
This is not a typical chronological survey of American history. Hahn organizes his material around themed chapters and moves back and forth in time. He has synthesized vast amounts of material and fashioned a conceptually challenging panorama ... Hahn rejects the notion that slavery was confined to the South, arguing it was a national phenomenon ... Hahn’s book is a dense read buzzing with ideas ... Hahn’s account of the post-war decades showcases his impressive knowledge of black political activity.
In his sweeping interpretation of the decades surrounding the Civil War, Steven Hahn emphasizes the emergence of the United States as a nation-state, a continental empire, and a global juggernaut ... These questions, of course, remain as relevant now as they are at the end of A Nation Without Borders, when the guns of World War begin firing and 'the rumblings of revolution' (in Mexico and Russia) can already be heard.
...provides the most sweeping indictment to date of the American appetite for conquest ... Hahn describes how the American nation colonized native peoples within its own borders by deploying military and paramilitary groups — hired guns and organized lynch parties — to defeat the 'oppositional movements' he admires ... His assessments are cogent but quick. That is the downside of an ambitious single volume that spans 80 years of nettlesome history and runs to over 500 pages.
...rarely has there been a more forthright challenge to old stereotypes than in Steven Hahn’s A Nation Without Borders ... For those who still pine for the verities of American exceptionalism, A Nation without Borders may disappoint expectations; but, for the rest of us, it is rich in insight on the making of the US during a crucial period.