Line in the Sand details the dramatic transformation of the western U.S.-Mexico border from its creation at the end of the Mexican-American War in 1848 to the emergence of the modern boundary line in the first decades of the twentieth century. In this sweeping narrative, Rachel St. John explores how this boundary changed from a mere line on a map to a clearly marked and heavily regulated divide between the United States and Mexico. Focusing on the desert border to the west of the Rio Grande, this book explains the origins of the modern border and places the line at the center of a transnational history of expanding capitalism and state power in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
Moving across local, regional, and national scales, St. John shows how government officials, Native American raiders, ranchers, railroad builders, miners, investors, immigrants, and smugglers contributed to the rise of state power on the border and developed strategies to navigate the increasingly regulated landscape. Over the border's history, the U.S. and Mexican states gradually developed an expanding array of official laws, ad hoc arrangements, government agents, and physical barriers that did not close the line, but made it a flexible barrier that restricted the movement of some people, goods, and animals without impeding others. By the 1930s, their efforts had created the foundations of the modern border control apparatus.
Drawing on extensive research in U.S. and Mexican archives, Line in the Sand weaves together a transnational history of how an undistinguished strip of land became the significant and symbolic space of state power and national definition that we know today.
Rachel St. John is associate professor of history at New York University.
"[R]emarkably well-told tale of the origins of the U.S.-Mexico border line and the social, economic, and political developments it has generated over more than a century and a half. . . . She clearly aims to tell the story of the border from both sides of the line and to emphasize the manner in which both the United States and Mexico have used it to foster transnational communities of interest as much as to divide them."--San Antonio Express-News
"[I]nteresting and easy to read."--Choice
"St. John's book is valuable for providing the history behind the explosive topics of border control and immigration reform in contemporary U.S. politics. Beyond that, however, history buffs will be satisfied with the Western characters that inhabit this tale in the days when the line remained blurry."--Stephen Mauro, Wild West
"[H]er work is a marvelous achievement. Just as no river runs through the western border, relatively little transnational scholarship has brought life to it compared to the Texas-Mexico region. This work will change that situation."--Richard Ribb, Southwestern Historical Quarterly
"In all, St. John's book offers a general and nicely articulated history of this area, incorporating a bi-national perspective which is not tainted by narratives of U.S. exceptionalism. For these reasons this book offers a valuable contribution to the extant scholarship on the border."--Ignacio Martinez, 49th Parallel
Table of Contents:
Chapter One: A New Map for North America: Defining the Border 12
Chapter Two: Holding the Line: Fighting Land Pirates and Apaches on the Border 39
Chapter Three: Landscape of Profits: Cultivating Capitalism across the Border 63
Chapter Four: The Space Between: Policing the Border 90
Chapter Five: Breaking Ties, Building Fences: Making War on the Border 119
Chapter Six: Like Night and Day: Regulating Morality with the Border 148
Chapter Seven: Insiders/Outsiders: Managing Immigration at the Border 174