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The End of the Myth
Cover of The End of the Myth
The End of the Myth
From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America
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WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump's border wall.
Ever since this nation's inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States' belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.
In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history – from the American Revolution to the War of 1898, the New Deal to the election of 2016. For centuries, he shows, America's constant expansion – fighting wars and opening markets – served as a "gate of escape," helping to deflect domestic political and economic conflicts outward. But this deflection meant that the country's problems, from racism to inequality, were never confronted directly. And now, the combined catastrophe of the 2008 financial meltdown and our unwinnable wars in the Middle East have slammed this gate shut, bringing political passions that had long been directed elsewhere back home.
It is this new reality, Grandin says, that explains the rise of reactionary populism and racist nationalism, the extreme anger and polarization that catapulted Trump to the presidency. The border wall may or may not be built, but it will survive as a rallying point, an allegorical tombstone marking the end of American exceptionalism.

WINNER OF THE PULITZER PRIZE

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump's border wall.
Ever since this nation's inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States' belief in itself as an exceptional nation – democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.
In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history – from the American Revolution to the War of 1898, the New Deal to the election of 2016. For centuries, he shows, America's constant expansion – fighting wars and opening markets – served as a "gate of escape," helping to deflect domestic political and economic conflicts outward. But this deflection meant that the country's problems, from racism to inequality, were never confronted directly. And now, the combined catastrophe of the 2008 financial meltdown and our unwinnable wars in the Middle East have slammed this gate shut, bringing political passions that had long been directed elsewhere back home.
It is this new reality, Grandin says, that explains the rise of reactionary populism and racist nationalism, the extreme anger and polarization that catapulted Trump to the presidency. The border wall may or may not be built, but it will survive as a rallying point, an allegorical tombstone marking the end of American exceptionalism.

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Awards-
About the Author-
  • Greg Grandin is the author of Fordlandia, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the National Book Critics Circle Award. A Professor of History at New York University, Grandin has published a number of other widely-acclaimed books, including Empire's Workshop, Kissinger's Shadow, and The Empire of Necessity, which won the Bancroft Prize.
Reviews-
  • Kirkus

    January 1, 2019
    A history of how America's conception of its borders reflects its changing identity.From the time of the country's founding, the frontier has had mythical significance, symbolizing limitless opportunity and grand ambition. Today, that expansive idea has been replaced with that of an isolating border wall. In an authoritative and compelling analysis, Bancroft Prize winner Grandin (History/New York Univ.; Kissinger's Shadow: The Long Reach of America's Most Controversial Statesman, 2015, etc.) traces America's evolution from the 18th century to the present, as expressed in the metaphorical meaning of frontier. "Where the frontier symbolized perennial rebirth, a culture in springtime," he contends, the wall now reflects "a conspiratorial nihilism, rejecting reason and dreading change." The author locates the mythology of the frontier in an essay by historian Frederick Jackson Turner, who "emancipated the concept of 'frontier, ' unhitched it from its more mundane earthbound means--used to indicate a national border or a military front--and let it float free as an abstraction" that signified "an aspiration." The vast, open West portended political equality and unlimited natural resources, independence and individualism: deeply held--though idealistic and overly romantic--values. Democratic values surely did not shape pioneers' treatment of Native Americans, who were slaughtered, displaced, and forcibly segregated; nor of African-Americans, who never shared in the apparently bountiful economic and political rewards of westward expansion. Virulent racism infected the concept of frontier during the presidency of Andrew Jackson, which was characterized by the brutal campaigns of the Indian Removal Act. At a time of fast-paced change, urban growth, and economic volatility, Jackson promised to rein in government intrusion and restore "primitive simplicity and purity." Throughout the 19th century, Grandin amply shows, the nation became involved in wars in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America, the Pacific, and Southeast Asia that redefined the relationship of frontier to domination, exploitation, and "the panic of power." Trump's border wall, writes the author, "is a monument to disenchantment," resentment, and rage.An engaging and disquieting analysis of America's recurring choice between "a humane ethic of social citizenship" and barbarism.

    COPYRIGHT(2019) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2019

    Because of its ever-expanding frontier, America once saw itself as an exceptional nation, individualistic and forward-looking. Yet its constant expansion was facilitated by fighting wars and opening markets, which, says NYU professor Grandin (Fordlandia), allowed it to off-load internal political and economic stress. Now, with the frontier settled, that stress has curved inward, leading to the rise of reactionary populism--and a country defined instead by the Wall. From a Bancroft Prize winner and multi-award finalist.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Library Journal

    March 1, 2019

    Throughout American history the frontier has been as much a place as an idea. In a broad and sweeping history stretching from the founding of the nation through the election of Donald Trump, Bancroft Prize winner Grandin (history, New York Univ.; The Empire of Necessity) examines what he calls the "expansionist imperative" of the frontier and what happens when that expansion comes to a halt. The extending boundaries of the United States provided a sense of freedom as land opened for settlement and acted as a safety valve against the increasingly populated and industrialized east. Grandin shows how the frontier deflected outwardly economic and political conflicts at the often violent expense of Native Americans and those who occupied lands that came under new control. After the closure of the frontier, Grandin demonstrates how the term took on an ideological meaning related to social and scientific progress and describes how President Trump's call to build a wall signaled the end of the frontier with its promise of growth and prosperity. VERDICT Grandin's own ideas are in plain view; however, that should not distance readers interested in American history and the frontier from this insightful book. [See Prepub Alert, 9/10/18.]--Chad E. Statler, Westlake Porter P.L., Westlake, OH

    Copyright 2019 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

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The End of the Myth
The End of the Myth
From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America
Greg Grandin
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