NEH banner [Return to Query]

Products for grant FA-54152-08

Central America's Encounter with U.S. Manifest Destiny, 1848-1860
Michel Gobat, University of Iowa

Grant details:

"The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race" (Article) [show prizes]
Title: "The Invention of Latin America: A Transnational History of Anti-Imperialism, Democracy, and Race"
Author: Michel Gobat
Abstract: This essay analyzes how continents are imagined by rethinking the origins and significance of the idea of Latin America. Most scholars assume that French imperialists invented the term in order to justify their country’s occupation of Mexico (1862-1867). In reality, it was first used in 1856 by elites in the region who were protesting U.S. diplomatic recognition of the filibuster regime that William Walker’s band of U.S. expansionists had established in Nicaragua in 1855. “Latin America” was based on elites’ embrace of a transatlantic ideology of whiteness associated with the European concept of a “Latin race.” Nevertheless, the idea of Latin America cannot be reduced to what some scholars consider a form of coloniality. However much “Latin America” rested on racial foundations, it was also imbued with a democratic ethos constructed against U.S. and European expansionism. By showing how “Latin America” resulted from the transnational mobilization of an imperial concept for anti-imperial ends, the article underscores a hidden tension that marked the origins of the idea—a tension that in many ways lives on, as evident in the current debate in the United States over the meaning of Latino/a America. Charting the rise of “Latin America” can help us better understand why certain geopolitical constructions thrive while others fade away.
Year: 2013
Primary URL: http://
Format: Journal
Periodical Title: American Historical Review

Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America (Book)
Title: Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America
Author: Michel Gobat
Abstract: "Empire By Invitation" traces the untold story of the rise and fall of the first U.S. overseas empire to William Walker, a believer in the nation’s manifest destiny to spread its blessings not only westward but abroad as well. In the 1850s Walker and a small group of U.S. expansionists migrated to Nicaragua determined to forge a tropical “empire of liberty.” His quest to free Central American masses from allegedly despotic elites initially enjoyed strong local support from liberal Nicaraguans who hoped U.S.-style democracy and progress would spread across the land. As Walker’s group of “filibusters” proceeded to help Nicaraguans battle the ruling conservatives, their seizure of power electrified the U.S. public and attracted some 12,000 colonists, including moral reformers. But what began with promises of liberation devolved into a reign of terror. After two years, Walker was driven out. Nicaraguans’ initial embrace of Walker complicates assumptions about U.S. imperialism. "Empire by Invitation" refuses to place Walker among American slaveholders who sought to extend human bondage southward. Instead, Walker and his followers, most of whom were Northerners, must be understood as liberals and democracy promoters. Their ambition was to establish a democratic state by force. Much like their successors in liberal-internationalist and neoconservative foreign policy circles a century later in Washington, D.C., Walker and his fellow imperialists inspired a global anti-U.S. backlash. Fear of a “northern colossus” precipitated a hemispheric alliance against the United States and gave birth to the idea of Latin America.
Year: 2018
Primary URL:
Primary URL Description:
Secondary URL:
Secondary URL Description: Harvard Univ. Press
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Type: Single author monograph
ISBN: 9780674737495
Copy sent to NEH?: Yes