Empires of the Imagination takes the Louisiana Purchase as a point of departure for a compelling new discussion of the interaction between France and the United States. In addition to offering the first substantive synthesis of this transatlantic relationship, the essays collected here offer new interpretations on themes vital to the subject, ranging from political culture to intercultural contact to ethnic identity. They capture the cultural breadth of the territories encompassed by the Louisiana Purchase, exploring not only French and Anglo-American experiences, but also those of Native Americans and African Americans. Despite differences in concerns and methods, the pieces collected share crucial ground in how they suggest new ways for thinking about empire, identity, and memory. The authors show how France and the United States set about their competing imperial projects even as residents of the North American West effectively resisted those imperial aims, creating instead their own notions of community and connection. At the same time, these essays show how the contact among peoples created new social configurations and distinct cultural identities. Moving beyond the particulars of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, these essays reveal how the Louisiana Purchase subsequently entered into the public consciousness on both sides of the Atlantic in ways that continue to define imperial projects, racial identities, and ethnic communities. Delineating a unique moment in transatlantic historical conversation, ""Empires of the Imagination"" also provides important lessons in cross-disciplinary approaches to North American and Atlantic history. In addition to the multinational perspectives of the authors, individual essays deploy social science history, political culture, and ideological history, as well as social and cultural history, to create a cohesive understanding of diverse experiences.
Peter J. Kastor, Associate Professor of History and American Culture Studies at Washington University in St. Louis, is the author of The Nation's Crucible: The Louisiana Purchase and the Creation of America. Francois Weil is Director Etudes and Director of the Center for North American Studies at L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris, and the coauthor of Citizenship and Those Who Leave: The Politics of Emigration and Expatriation.