William S. Kiser

Nov 23, 2023

Illusions of Empire

The Civil War and Reconstruction in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands

University of Pennsylvania Press 2021

The 19th-century Mexican-American borderlands were a complicated place. By the 1860s, Confederates, Americans, Mexicans, French, and various Native societies were all scheming and vying for control of the region bifurcated by the Rio Grande. In Illusions of Empire: The Civil War and Reconstruction in the U.S.- Mexico Borderlands (U Pennsylvania Press, 2021), Texas A&M-San Antonio history professor William Kiser untangles the knotty history of this place at this time. For the United States, the Mexican borderlands were a problem - porous, difficult to control, and threatening to American sovereignty. For the Confederacy, the borderlands were a screen onto which they could project their dreams of a southern empire of slavery. For Mexicans, the borderlands represented their lack of control and political instability, while for Native people, they were homelands, to be defended at all costs. The borderlands were thus a contested space, where that same contestation shaped policy and outcomes of international crises, including the Civil War and the French Intervention. Kiser asks us to expand the boundaries of "Greater Reconstruction" to include not just the American West, but to cross international boundaries as well.

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and is the Assistant Director of the American Society for Environmental History.

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Stephen Hausmann

Dr. Stephen R. Hausmann is an assistant professor of history at the University of St. Thomas in Minnesota and is the Assistant Director of the American Society for Environmental History.

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