Remaking North American Sovereignty: Towards a Continental History of State Transformation in the Mid-Nineteenth Century 

July 30-August 1, 2015, at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada.

RNAS Program (downloadable format)

This conference seeks to bring historians of Canada, indigenous peoples, Mexico and the United States to consider state making in mid-1800s North America from a continent-wide perspective. Peaking in the years 1865-67 with the end of the American Civil War, Canadian Confederation, and the restoration of the Mexican republic after the expulsion of Maximilian, a French-imposed monarch, this era of political transformation has had profound consequences for the future of the continent.

Key to this process was the question of sovereignty, or the power to rule. Battles over sovereignty ran through the struggles waged not only by the nation states that came to dominate the North America—Canada, Mexico, and the United State—but also those that failed, like the Confederate States of America, and others, like the European empires and indigenous peoples, that came into conflict with the three main states.

These conflicts went well beyond the years 1865-67 and encompassed more than simply the legal forms of the nation state. Battles over sovereignty also ran through the histories of newly emancipated slaves, immigrant communities, and the reorganization of the family. As such the conference explores not only the political and diplomatic aspects of state making but also the broader social, economic, and cultural histories of this process. Thus far, the continental dimensions of this North American sovereignty have been obscured by historical traditions that confine each of these state-making conflicts within its specific national framework.

In light of the global turn in 19th century historiography, as well as the real interconnections across the continent, it is time to consider these political crises as an inter-related struggle to redefine the relationship of North Americans to new governments.

Keynote addresses will be delivered by Professors Steven Hahn, University of Pennsylvania; Pekka Hämäläinen, Oxford University; Erika Pani, Colegio de Mexico; and Andrew Smith, University of Liverpool. Sponsors:

Sponsors: This conference is sponsored by the George and Ann Richards Civil War Era Center at Penn State University and supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies at Virginia Tech University and the following academic units at the University of Calgary: the Department of History; the Centre for Military, Security, and Strategic Studies; the Faculty of Arts; the Latin America Research Centre; and the Office of the Vice President for Research.