December 30, 2012

Review - Smuggler Nation (Peter Andreas)

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.
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.

I've always been a friend of reading about history from a different angle. In Smuggler Nation Peter Andreas presents US history as a "smuggling story" which is a vantage point that sounded highly promising to me.
Presenting the impact and significance smuggling had in terms of the building of the US as a nation - from the early colonial era, up until the modern day - this is a both extensive and comprehensive work on the topic. It's the fascinating questions of how and why smuggling became such an essential, sometimes even necessary, ingredient for the nation, that hooked me right away.
While this book offers a broad view of the complex relationship America had, and still has, with smuggling, the author also skillfully highlights the progression of illicit trade throughout the years culminating in the battle to subvert it today. It's funny how we look back with a nostalgic glance on those colorful smuggling tales of times long gone and only ever grasp the ramifications of what illicit trade means to a country and its people when being faced with it in the present. And it's the present which is awarded just as much attention as the past, reaching beyond drug and border wars straight into the realm of illicit globalization.
Highly recommended for all history enthusiasts who're not scared of a fair share of economy between the pages too.
In short: Fascinating account on how smuggling made a nation!

4/5 Trees

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the NetGalley book review program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

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