Unbecoming British

Un libro in lingua di Yokota Kariann Akemi edito da Oxford Univ Pr on Demand, 2011

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In This Wide-Ranging and Bold New Interpretation of American history and its Founding Fathers, Kariann Yokota shows that although independence from Britain entailed certain freedoms, it also fueled anxieties about cultural inferiority and race.

Caught between their desire to emulate "civilized" Europe and an awareness that they lived at the periphery of the civilized world, the American elite went to great lengths to convince themselves and others of their refinement. And yet, as Yokota shows, they had to rely on Britain and China to supply their patriotic tableware, on European cartographers who had never set foot in the Americas for their maps, and on industrial spies to help establish American manufactures. In the eyes of contemporary diarists, travelers, scientists, and collectors, both American and European, the post-revolutionary elite exhibited a certain backwardness and gullibility: why else would they purchase out-of-fashion silk? But what really distinguished the new nation, according to these observers, were its unlimited natural resources, the widespread presence of slavery, and non-white societies alternately viewed as "savage" and "noble."

Yokota examines a wealth of evidence from the fields of geography, decorative arts, intellectual history, and technology to suggest that the process of Unbecoming British was not an easy one. Far from having its footing or its future secure, the new nation struggled to define itself economically, politically, and culturally in the years between the first and the second American revolution, the War of 1812. Yet out of this confusion of hope and exploitation, insecurity and vision, emerged a uniquely American national identity.

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