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Being American in Europe, 1750–1860

, 248 pages

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March 2013



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Being American in Europe, 1750–1860

While visiting Europe In 1844, Harry McCall of Philadelphia wrote to his cousin back home of his disappointment. He didn’t mind Paris, but he preferred the company of Americans to Parisians. Furthermore, he vowed to be "an American, heart and soul" wherever he traveled, but "particularly in England." Why was he in Europe if he found it so distasteful? After all, travel in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries was expensive, time consuming, and frequently uncomfortable.

Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 tracks the adventures of American travelers while exploring large questions about how these experiences affected national identity. Daniel Kilbride searched the diaries, letters, published accounts, and guidebooks written between the late colonial period and the Civil War. His sources are written by people who, while prominent in their own time, are largely obscure today, making this account fresh and unusual.

Exposure to the Old World generated varied and contradictory concepts of American nationality. Travelers often had diverse perspectives because of their region of origin, race, gender, and class. Americans in Europe struggled with the tension between defining the United States as a distinct civilization and situating it within a wider world. Kilbride describes how these travelers defined themselves while they observed the politics, economy, morals, manners, and customs of Europeans. He locates an increasingly articulate and refined sense of simplicity and virtue among these visitors and a gradual disappearance of their feelings of awe and inferiority.

Daniel Kilbride is an associate professor of history at John Carroll University in Ohio. He is the author of An American Aristocracy: Southern Planters in Antebellum Philadelphia.

"This is a fine book, very well researched and written. Kilbride offers a unique and powerful definition of 'Americanness' that will prove indispensable to scholars of the period and fascinating to the general reader."

" Being American in Europe confirms and provides a new perspective on older scholarship."

"Kilbride's book offers a lucidly written and valuable contribution to our understanding of the relationship between the United States and Europe, and the development of American identity in this period."

"Kilbride has given us an impressive work of intellectual and cultural history that will prove key to understanding the creation of American identity and its sources."

"Daniel Kilbride's study provides much needed insight into an aspect of American history that is relatively unexplored."

" Being American in Europe is a valuable contribution to the literature because it pulls a diverse array of travelers (many of whom are already well-known to historians in other contexts) into one analysis in order to reveal the fundamental questions of national identity that travel to Europe posed. Like the insights gained by the travelers he studies, Kilbride's book helps us better understand the United States as an emerging nation in the Atlantic world."

"The wide range of sources Kilbride has explored is a central virtue of this book... Kilbride has brought readers into wide-open conversations among earlier Americans about Europe and the United States."

"With imposing feats of archival labour that do honour to the breadth of his subject, Daniel Kilbride's Being American in Europe, 1750–1860 offers new insight into the ways American identity was formed through European travel in the Antebellum Era. Countless little-known diaries and letters from ordinary travellers combine, like the tiles of a mosaic, to show patterns of response to the European encounter that are usually difficult to see. Rich in anecdote and insights into the period, Being American in Europe is a major contribution to the study of the meanings Europe has held for the United States."

"Kilbride offers useful discussions of the changing realities of travel over the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century... Kilbride should be commended for illuminating and analyzing these often obscure texts."

"A nuanced and balanced analysis... Promises to be the go-to volume for historians seeking a lively and synthetic account of U.S. overseas interactions from the colonial period to the U.S. Civil War."

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