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Unbecoming British How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation

by Kariann Akemi Yokota

Unbecoming British How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation Synopsis

What can textiles, teapots, quince jam-and a moose carcass that Thomas Jefferson had shipped to France-reveal about the formation of early US national identity? In this wide-ranging and original study, Kariann Yokota combines a rigorous examination of material objects with insights from postcolonial theory to propose a bold new interpretation of American history. Although independence from Britain entailed certain freedoms, it also fueled, among the Founding Fathers and other post-colonial creole elites, anxieties about cultural inferiority and race. Caught between their desire to emulate civilizedEurope and an awareness that they lived at the periphery of the civilized world, they went to great lengths to convince themselves and others of their refinement. And yet they had to rely on Britain and China to supply their patriotic tableware, European cartographers who had never set foot in the Americas for their maps, and 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 or pay for shipments of broken housewares? 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 savageand 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. Out of this confusion of hope and exploitation, insecurity and vision, emerged a uniquely American national identity.

Unbecoming British How Revolutionary America Became a Postcolonial Nation Press Reviews

[Yokota] argues provocatively that national independence put elite Americans in a bind ... [she] provides a strikingly original discussion of map-making in the new republic. * T. H. Breen, Times Literary Supplement * Unbecoming British is written without jargon, making it very suitable both for class adoption and interested lay readers. * Andrew Jackson O'Shaughnessy, The American Historical Review *

Book Information

ISBN: 9780195393422
Publication date: 1st October 2011
Author: Kariann Akemi Yokota
Publisher: Oxford University Press Inc
Format: Hardback
Pagination: 368 pages
Categories: History of the Americas, Modern history to 20th century: c 1700 to c 1900, National liberation & independence, post-colonialism,

About Kariann Akemi Yokota

Assistant Professor of American Studies and History, Yale University

More About Kariann Akemi Yokota

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