nation

Everyone knows that America is 50 states and…some other stuff. Scattered shards in the Pacific and the Caribbean, the not-quite states—American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands—and their 4 million people are often forgotten, even by most Americans. But they’re filled with American flags, U.S. post offices, and Little League baseball games. How did these territories come to be part of the United States? What are they like? And why aren’t they states?

Doug Mach explores these questions in his book, The Not-Quite States of America: Dispatches from the Territories and Other Far-Flung Outposts of the USA.

  At the dawn of the nineteenth century, as Britain, France, Spain, and the United States all jockeyed for control of the vast expanses west of the Mississippi River, the stakes for American expansion were incalculably high. Even after the American purchase of the Louisiana Territory, Spain still coveted that land and was prepared to employ any means to retain it. With war expected at any moment, Jefferson played a game of strategy, putting on the ground the only Americans he could: a cadre of explorers who finally annexed it through courageous investigation. 

Julie M. Fenster is the author of many works of popular history, including The Case of Abraham Lincoln, Race of the Century, the award-winning Ether Day, and, with Douglas Brinkley, Parish Priest, which was a New York Times bestseller. She also co-wrote the PBS documentary First Freedom, about the founders and religious liberty. Her new book is Jefferson's America: The President, the Purchase, and the Explorers Who Transformed a Nation.

We welcome Ian Bremmer, founder and president of Eurasia Group, and speak with him about his book, Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World