The Imagined America of William McKendree Gwin: Expansion, Secession, and the Unstable Borders of Nineteenth-Century North America

Lecture Description

This talk reframes the fractured history of U.S. territorial expansion with an emphasis on the contingency of national boundaries and identities in nineteenth-century North America. It focuses on the compelling life story of William McKendree Gwin, a California senator and insatiable expansionist whose ambitions took him from the Mississippi River Valley to Gold Rush California and from Washington, DC, to Paris and Mexico City. Through Gwin’s story we are able to catch a glimpse of the many different national and imperial configurations that were imagined across the continent and to better understand the real North America of fluid boundaries, identities, and authority in which these imagined polities were possible.


Biography West

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