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A Great and Rising Nation

Naval Exploration and Global Empire in the Early US Republic

A Great and Rising Nation

Naval Exploration and Global Empire in the Early US Republic

Publication supported by the Bevington Fund

A Great and Rising Nation illuminates the unexplored early decades of the United States’ imperialist naval aspirations.

Conventional wisdom holds that, until the Spanish-American War of 1898, the United States was a feeble player on the world stage, with an international presence rooted in commerce rather than military might. Michael A. Verney’s A Great and Rising Nation flips this notion on its head, arguing that early US naval expeditions, often characterized as merely scientific, were in fact deeply imperialist. Circling the globe from the Mediterranean to South America and the Arctic, these voyages reflected the diverse imperial aspirations of the new republic, including commercial dominance in the Pacific World, religious empire in the Holy Land, proslavery expansion in South America, and diplomatic prestige in Europe. As Verney makes clear, the United States had global imperial aspirations far earlier than is commonly thought.

312 pages | 16 halftones | 6 x 9 | © 2022

American Beginnings, 1500-1900

History: American History, Military History


"A Great and Rising Nation is an important addition to the scholarship of the antebellum navy, especially the period between 1830 and 1860, which has been sorely underexplored."

H-Net Reviews

"While establishing itself as a continental power, the early American Republic asserted itself in the international sphere through a series of scientific expeditions aimed at expanding the country’s economic influence. In A Great and Rising Nation, Verney recounts how the various military expeditions accomplished not only their stated intentions but also the unstated goal of expanding US influence at a time when European interests dominated global economic systems. . . Recommended."


“With its expansive narrative and sophisticated, penetrating insights, A Great and Rising Nation makes a genuine contribution to our understanding of the early American republic and its relationship to the wider world.”

Brian Rouleau, Texas A&M University

“Elegant, erudite, and adventurous, A Great and Rising Nation takes readers on a remarkable global voyage with the US Navy’s antebellum exploring expeditions. Crisply written and featuring a memorable cast of characters, this is a must-read for anyone interested in the early American republic, naval history, and the history of American empire.”

Gautham Rao, American University

A Great and Rising Nation shows how naval exploration became both mass entertainment and a popular instrument of imperial power in the early American republic. This marvelous new study combines thrilling accounts of early US exploring expeditions from Fiji to the Arctic with an important argument about the relationship of domestic political process and empire building.”

Amy S. Greenberg, Pennsylvania State University

“Beginning in the early nineteenth century, the American Navy played a key role in extending the scope and reach of American influence in the world. Venturing to distant regions, the Navy engaged in a wide range of scientific, humanitarian, and political missions. Compelling and original, A Great and Rising Nation transforms our understanding of the origins and meaning of American imperialism.”

Rosemarie Zagarri, George Mason University

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Jeremiah Reynolds and the Empire of Knowledge
Chapter 2 The United States Exploring Expedition as Jacksonian Capitalism
Chapter 3 The United States Exploring Expedition in Popular Culture
Chapter 4 The Dead Sea Expedition and the Empire of Faith
Chapter 5 Proslavery Explorations of South America
Chapter 6 Arctic Exploration and US–UK Rapprochement


SMU Center for Presidential History: Center for Presidential History Book Prize

North American Society for Oceanic History: John Lyman Book Prize
Honorable Mention

State Historical Society of Missouri: Missouri Conference on History Book Award

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