This useful book offers a comprehensive introduction in one volume to a vital but little-known aspect of American history: the role played by maritime commerce in both the international and the domestic arenas of political and economic development. The book is strongest in its analysis of the colonial era and American history up to the Civil War: the narrative is coherent and well thought out and makes major contributions. The chapters dealing with later eras are unfortunately less successful; the subject is more complex, and the authors have been less able to integrate their different perspectives and areas of research into a continuous narrative history. Nevertheless, even where the authors seem to lose their way, this is an extremely useful book that deserves attention.
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