Smuggler Nation: Book summary and reviews of Smuggler Nation by Peter Andreas

Smuggler Nation

How Illicit Trade Made America

by Peter Andreas

Smuggler Nation

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Book Summary

America is a smuggler nation. Our long history of illicit imports has ranged from West Indies molasses and Dutch gunpowder in the 18th century, to British industrial technologies and African slaves in the 19th century, to French condoms and Canadian booze in the early 20th century, to Mexican workers and Colombian cocaine in the modern era. Contraband capitalism, it turns out, has been an integral part of American capitalism.

Providing a sweeping narrative history from colonial times to the present, Smuggler Nation is the first book to retell the story of America - and of its engagement with its neighbors and the rest of the world - as a series of highly contentious battles over clandestine commerce. As Peter Andreas demonstrates in this provocative and fascinating account, smuggling has played a pivotal and too often overlooked role in America's birth, westward expansion, and economic development, while anti-smuggling campaigns have dramatically enhanced the federal government's policing powers. The great irony, Andreas tells us, is that a country that was born and grew up through smuggling is today the world's leading anti-smuggling crusader.

In tracing America's long and often tortuous relationship with the murky underworld of smuggling, Andreas provides a much-needed antidote to today's hyperbolic depictions of out-of-control borders and growing global crime threats. Urgent calls by politicians and pundits to regain control of the nation's borders suffer from a severe case of historical amnesia, nostalgically implying that they were ever actually under control. This is pure mythology, says Andreas. For better and for worse, America's borders have always been highly porous.

Far from being a new and unprecedented danger to America, the illicit underside of globalization is actually an old American tradition. As Andreas shows, it goes back not just decades but centuries. And its impact has been decidedly double-edged, not only subverting U.S. laws but also helping to fuel America's evolution from a remote British colony to the world's pre-eminent superpower.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. An illuminating look at the historical impact of Americas illicit economy." - Kirkus

"A valuable and entertaining read for historians and policymakers." - Publishers Weekly

"In this terrific book, Peter Andreas shows that illicit trade is as American as apple pie." - Darrell West, Vice President and Director of Governance Studies, The Brookings Institution

"Smuggler Nation is a tour de force. Porous borders and the efforts to seal them are not new to the 21st century - Andreas convincingly shows they have defined the American experience." - James Goldgeier, Dean, School of International Service, American University

"Through his extensive historical research, Andreas shows us that illicit trade in America is not an aberration but has in fact shaped the modern economy in fundamental ways. An extraordinary re-narrating of familiar episodes that makes visible America's hidden connections with underworlds and parallel worlds." - Saskia Sassen, author of Territory, Authority, Rights

"This iconoclastic and timely book is an engaging and accessible primer for anyone seeking to understand the illicit dimensions of the global economy." - Louis W. Pauly, Professor and Chair, Political Science, University of Toronto

"Fascinating, powerful, persuasive, unexpected, lively, deep, and highly recommended." - James A. Morone, author of Hellfire Nation and coauthor of The Heart of Power

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More Information

Peter Andreas is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He was previously an Academy Scholar at Harvard University, a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow on International Peace and Security. Andreas has written numerous books, published widely in scholarly journals and policy magazines, presented Congressional testimony, written op-eds for major newspapers, and provided frequent media commentary.

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