Andreas (Political Science/Brown Univ.; Blue Helmets and Black Markets: The Business of Survival in the Siege of Sarajevo, 2008, etc.) explores American history and its relationship with smuggling and illegal trade and “how these illicit flows—and the campaigns to police them—defined and shaped the nation.”
In this well-researched history, the author examines illegal commerce in the United States from its earliest days into the modern era. In colonial times, citizens strenuously and at times violently resisted attempts to curb widespread illegal trade of such products as molasses and wine, and even landmark events such as the Boston Tea Party were influenced by smuggling issues. Andreas shows how American history has been profoundly affected by the subtle (and sometimes, as in the case of Prohibition, not-so-subtle) effects of illegal trade and by government attempts to control it. The author is most engaging when he focuses on key events, such as when Gen. Andrew Jackson recruited smuggler and pirate Jean Laffite to help defend New Orleans during the War of 1812. The section on complexities of the slave trade is especially eye-opening. The final third of the book, focusing in large part on drug smuggling and America’s long-running drug war, is skillfully presented and contextualized: “[F]ar from deterring the drug trade,” writes the author, “American-led supply suppression campaigns ended up mostly dispersing and rerouting it.” Though Andreas’ prose is occasionally a bit on the academic side, he makes a strong case that America is not only a smuggler nation, but also “an ever-expanding police nation.”
An illuminating look at the historical impact of America’s illicit economy.