Alan Taylor, Two-Time Pulitzer-Prize-Winning Historian and Professor
In this episode of Talks at GS, Alan Taylor, Pulitzer-Prize-winning historian and professor at the University of Virginia discusses his new book, American Republics: A Continental History of the United States, 1783-1850, which focuses on the formative period in American history between the Revolution and the Civil War, and how the struggles of that expansionary era continue to inform the social and political dynamics of America today.
On the unification of the U.S: “There've been no unity among these 13 colonies before the Revolution. And so it's kind of a shotgun marriage during the Revolution. They have to unite to fight the British. So there isn't this reservoir of identity, common identity as Americans, and people still identify primarily with their state or with their region. So they thought of themselves as New Englanders or Virginians or Carolinians. And they had long traditions of rivalries, resentments, even hatreds between these different states. So to construct a nation out of this was a pretty tall order and it took quite a while. It didn't all happen in this one generation.
On the War of 1812: “The war of 1812 per se begins in 1812 and ends in 1815, when the peace treaty is ratified. I argue that it’s a part of a bigger set of conflicts that includes American takeover of West Florida, invasion of East Florida, conflicts with native peoples, including the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811, and that all of these episodes are an effort by the United States to shatter Indian alliances with foreign empires— the British in Canada and the Spanish in Florida. So I say, let's talk about the war of the 1810s, because I see this continuing after the War of 1812 with further American invasions of Florida in 1816, and then in 1818. And then in 1819, a treaty is negotiated where Spain just gives up because they know they can't defend Florida, and so they agree that they will sell it to the United States.
The episode was recorded on May 20, 2021.