Our Sister Republics

The United States in an Age of American Revolutions

Caitlin Fitz (Author, Northwestern University)

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Overview | Formats

A major new interpretation recasts U.S. history between revolution and civil war, exposing a dramatic reversal in sympathy toward Latin American revolutions.

In the early nineteenth century, the United States turned its idealistic gaze southward, imagining a legacy of revolution and republicanism it hoped would dominate the American hemisphere. From pulsing port cities to Midwestern farms and southern plantations, an adolescent nation hailed Latin America’s independence movements as glorious tropical reprises of 1776. Even as Latin Americans were gradually ending slavery, U.S. observers remained energized by the belief that their founding ideals were triumphing over European tyranny among their “sister republics.” But as slavery became a violently divisive issue at home, goodwill toward antislavery revolutionaries waned. By the nation’s fiftieth anniversary, republican efforts abroad had become a scaffold upon which many in the United States erected an ideology of white U.S. exceptionalism that would haunt the geopolitical landscape for generations. Marshaling groundbreaking research in four languages, Caitlin Fitz defines this hugely significant, previously unacknowledged turning point in U.S. history.

Book Details

  • Paperback
  • June 2017
  • ISBN 978-1-63149-317-1
  • 5.6 × 8.3 in / 384 pages
  • Sales Territory: Worldwide

Other Formats

  1. Book CoverOur Sister Republics: The United States in an Age of American Revolutions


Endorsements & Reviews

“[Fitz] is a deft guide to this reinterpretation of early American history, a time when ‘earlier rhetoric of inalienable rights and self-evident truths was increasingly challenged by assertions of white superiority and U.S. exceptionalism’… Fitz shows that history is not always written by wars, treaties, and administrative actions; often, the people take the lead.” — Kirkus Reviews

“This study, based on strong academic foundations and written in captivating and elegant prose, is an impressive achievement that suggests intriguing origins of American exceptionalism.” — Publishers Weekly

“Caitlin Fitz’s thrilling investigation is as notable for its readability as for the broad significance of its claims. Fitz introduces us to a United States where South American independence movements were embraced by a surprisingly wide range of U.S. residents, where hemispheric fellowship trumped racism, and both black and white children were named Bolivar. Much like the newspaper editors quoted within its pages, Our Sister Republics provides ‘an alternative picture of who we might have been, and just maybe, whom we might become.’” — Amy Greenberg, author of A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico

“During the latter half of the Age of Revolution (1775-1825) many South American peoples threw off their colonial ties to Spain and Portugal and declared their independence. Residents of the United States hailed the birth of these nations and named towns and sons after Simon Bolivar. In this original and stimulating book, Caitlin Fitz shows how these ovations turned sour for many slave-state citizens when the new republics south of the border abolished slavery—one more example of the increasingly divisive politics of slavery in North America.” — James M. McPherson, author of The War That Shaped a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

“Caitlin Fitz’s Our Sister Republics is a tremendous accomplishment. Fitz’s bold and convincing argument removes the early history of the United States from its provincial cloister, revealing the transnational origins of American Exceptionalism, the ways in which the United States’ sense of its republican uniqueness was formed, since its very inception, in engagement with Spanish and Portuguese America. A timely, compelling, and important book.” — Greg Grandin, author of The Empire of Necessity

“Caitlin Fitz shows that U.S. observers’ attitude toward their fellow American Revolutionaries south of the Rio Grande was, above all, narcissistic. Her fast-paced narrative goes a long way toward explaining why, by the mid-20th century, the Americas’ first independent republic became the world’s leading suppressor of anti-colonial revolts.” — Woody Holton, author of Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution, Unruly Americans and the Origins of the Constitution

“Caitlin Fitz has written an eloquent account of how public opinion in the United States welcomed the revolutions of the South American republics, and how the United States became the first country in the world to recognize their independence. She vividly describes the individual experiences of men and women, whites and blacks, politicians, intellectuals, and just plain folk.” — Daniel Walker Howe, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848

“In a rip-roaring narrative, Caitlin Fitz tells the stunning story of camaraderie across the Americas in an era of revolutions. She shows that people of the United States took a generous, if self-congratulatory, delight in republican brotherhood in what was truly a revolutionary age, as well as how this shared idealism was forgotten in subsequent decades of division and nationalism.” — Kathleen DuVal, author of Independence Lost: Lives on the Edge of the American Revolution

“Readable and groundbreaking, this work will be cited by scholars and enjoyed by general readers for years to come.” — Michael Rodriguez, Library Journal

“Superb. . . . As instructive as Ms. Fitz’s narrative is, it is also a pleasure to read. She has a gift for the sparkling phrase that both enchants and illuminates. . . . It is a rare historian who can bring politics alive with such verve.” — Fergus M. Bordewich, Wall Street Journal

“Fitz’s elegantly written history tells an early American story of reverse racial progress.” — Robinson Meyer, Atlantic

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