I’m now reading an advance copy of Mike McDonnell’s wonderful, soon-to-be-released Masters of Empire: Great Lakes Indians and the Making of America (2015). And recently, in a conversation with Cody Osterman (one our fine ACS grad students, as well as a funny guy), we were talking about Ben Carp’s fine Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (2010). Which got us thinking, how many books have that in the subtitle? And what does it all mean?
It turns out that America’s been made quite a bit. For example, it’s been made by individuals, as chronicled in James Madison and the Making of America, Betsy Ross and the Making of America, Frontiersman: Daniel Boone and the Making of America, and Henry Adams and the Making of America. It’s also been made by half the entire population, as we can learn from Women and the Making of America, or racial bondage, as we find out from Slavery and the Making of America. Sometimes America’s been made in court, as we read about in Lincoln’s Greatest Case: The River, the Bridge, and the Making of America, or in the signing of a treaty, as is explained in Savages and Scoundrels: The Great Treaty at Horse Creek and the Making of America, or on a voyage of exploration, as we’re informed in Across the Continent: Jefferson, Lewis and Clark, and the Making of America. America’s been made by cities (City of the Century: The Epic of Chicago and the Making of America), by religious orders (Sisters: Catholic Nuns and the Making of America), and by friendships (Bonds of Affection: Civic Charity and the Making of America—Winthrop, Jefferson, and Lincoln). America has even been made through killing people, which took a lot of making, thus resulting in Executing Democracy: Volume One: Capital Punishment and the Making of America, 1683-1807 and Executing Democracy: Volume Two: Capital Punishment and the Making of America, 1835-1843 (begging the question of whether America took a hiatus from executions, being made, or both from 1808 through 1834). And of course, given that textbooks represent the broadest syntheses of scholarship, undergrads in survey classes can wade through the classic Making America. (Note: I’m not going to mention Cleon Skousen‘s arch-conservative, bizarro The Making of America: The Substance and Meaning of the Constitution). No doubt there are many more. That’s a whole lotta makin’, folks.
We all know a little bit about how publishing works, whether academic or commercial. Authors propose titles, editors and editorial boards massage or offer entirely new ones, the marketing people weigh in. Titles should describe a book, sure, but more than that, they’re there to sell books.. And, at least to publishers, nothing sells like making America
So take note, future authors! If you want to rake in those royalties Scrooge-McDuck-style, put “…and the Making of America” in your book titles. But then again, if you can’t, get a blurb from Bruce Springsteen. That’s cool, too.