An Independent Empire: Diplomacy & War in the Making of the United States

Michael S. Kochin (Author) Michael Taylor (Author)


Foreign policies and diplomatic missions, combined with military action, were the driving forces behind the growth of the early United States. In an era when the Old and New Worlds were subject to British, French, and Spanish imperial ambitions, the new republic had limited diplomatic presence and minimal public credit. It was vulnerable to hostile forces in every direction. The United States could not have survived, grown, or flourished without the adoption of prescient foreign policies, or without skillful diplomatic operations.

An Independent Empire shows how foreign policy and diplomacy constitute a truly national story, necessary for understanding the history of the United States. In this lively and well-written book, episodes in American history--such as the writing and ratification of the Constitution, Henry Clay's advocacy of an American System, Pinckney's Treaty with Spain, and the visionary but absurd Congress of Panama--are recast as elemental aspects of United States foreign and security policy.

An Independent Empire tells the stories of the people who defined the early history of America's international relationships. Throughout the book are brief, entertaining vignettes of often-overlooked intellectuals, spies, diplomats, and statesmen whose actions and decisions shaped the first fifty years of the United States. More than a dozen bespoke maps illustrate that the growth of the early United States was as much a geographical as a political or military phenomenon.

Product Details

University of Michigan Press
Publish Date
January 24, 2020
6.0 X 1.0 X 9.1 inches | 1.2 pounds

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About the Author

Michael S. Kochin is Senior Lecturer in Political Science at Tel Aviv University and has held visiting appointments at Toronto, Princeton, and Yale. He is the author of Gender and Rhetoric in Plato's Political Thought (2002), which was named an Outstanding Academic Title by Choice.

Michael Taylor works with the International Land Coalition in Rome, Italy, as an advocate for land rights in Africa and globally.


"This is a fine account of American diplomacy and war in the first fifty years after independence for both undergraduates and a popular audience."
--Kevin R C Gutzman, Western Connecticut State University

"Engagingly written, a real 'page-turner, ' clipped and energetic in its narrative, confident in its opinions, and sensible in its conclusions. Its approach is refreshingly traditional--focusing on individual statesmen and telling political history, quite adroitly--but not insensitive to modern concerns, for example about slavery or about religious and ethnic minorities. It tells the story of American growth and expansion as neither inevitable nor horrible, but as a consequence of numerous choices, some wise and just, others ill-advised or nefarious."
--James R Stoner, Louisiana State University

"America's bold experiment in republican self-government could only succeed if the new nation could hold its own as An Independent Empire in a revolutionary world of empires in conflict. Michael Kochin and Michael Taylor's engaging account of the first half-century of U.S. foreign policy is a welcome addition to the literature on the geopolitics of American nation-making."
--Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Professor, Emeritus, University of Virginia