Appearing for the first time in English, this award-winning book is a masterpiece of scholarship that reads like an adventure story. In The United States and the Pacific, Jean Heffer offers a history of the Pacific as a “frontier” of the United States, with economics, politics, and culture as his central areas of consideration.
Heffer remarks that, “it is often said nowadays that the Pacific will become the center of the world in the 21st century.” While many studies have analyzed specific zones or regions within the Pacific, The United States and the Pacific is one of the first to consider the whole of this vast ocean and its coasts as a single unit of study. In broadening the scope of analysis, one of Heffer’s primary aims is to expand American understanding of the term “frontier” to include the Pacific and its nations.
Heffer focuses on three major chronological periods. The first period stretches from 1784, the year the first ship flying the American flag reached China, to 1867, the eve of the Civil War. During this period, America’s presence was expanding throughout the entire ocean. The second period, from 1868 to Pearl Harbor in 1941, witnessed a simultaneous contraction of the area within which various American interests were active, and a gradual integration of the frontier region. Finally, World War II marks the beginning of the third period, which concludes in 1994, during which, Heffer argues, the entire Pacific becomes an “American lake” and the former frontier begins to disappear.
The United States and the Pacific is populated with fascinating characters, including whalers, missionaries, investors, sailors, diplomats, and merchant marines. Heffer’s provocative and challenging history of the Pacific as a “frontier” entertains as it informs.
Jean Heffer teaches at the Ecole Deshautesetudes en Sciences Sociales in France.
W. Donald Wilson holds a degree in modern languages from Trinity College, Dublin, where he also completed a Ph.D. in French literature. He has taught at universities in the West Indies, the United Kingdom, and at the University of Waterloo. In 2011 and 2013, two of Wilson’s translations were long-listed for the Best Translated Book Award in the United States, and in 2013 he was a finalist for the French-American Foundation translation prize.
“Wilson’s translation is polished and lucid, and Heffer handles the complexities of his story adroitly; his historical synthesis will introduce a new generation of readers to a region certain to play an increasingly important role in world affairs.” —Publishers Weekly
“It is profound and is highly recommended.” —Journal of the West
"Heffer offers striking details and a conceptually expansive text. No equivalent exists on this topic, and we are fortunate to have this work translated for a wide readership, both scholarly and general." —Library Journal
“[A] strikingly successful narrative. . . . One of the greatest strengths of Heffer’s book is the way it narrates the domestic American story of Asian immigration . . . consistently sound judgement characterizes the book. Perhaps the most rewarding part of Heffer’s book, however, is the section which brings the story almost to the present day, again distinguished by its clearsightedness and sound judgement.” —Times Literary Supplement
“The book is a solid contribution to the field of Pacific Studies because of its theoretical perspective, which is innovative in its geographical scope thus offering a useful sythesis for students and scholars in history and other social sciences.” —Journal of Economic History
“The publication of an English translation of this unique treatise is a welcome and important addition to our understanding of how the United States was shaped by the Pacific Ocean and Pacific rim, and, conversely, how the United States shaped that oceanic world, its islands, and littorals.” —International History Review