Preview of December JCWE and the Transpacific Connections Forum

Preview of December JCWE and the Transpacific Connections Forum

In the late nineteenth century, opponents of Asian immigration on the West Coast claimed slavery was being resurrected in the United States. The escalation of industrial capitalism in the postbellum years had already established the perception among American workers that capitalists were attempting to enslave them as exploitable labor. As one labor leader put it in 1887, a capitalist was “a traitor worse than was Jefferson Davis in 1861.”[1] On the West Coast, the growing numbers of Japanese laborers, whom white Americans viewed as servile and degraded, reinforced the anticapitalism discourse on the rebirth of slavery. One California newspaper claimed “Japan’s pauper” laborers would introduce a new form of slavery in the state, “a system far worse than existed in the sunny South in slavery days.”[2] The association between Japanese immigration and slavery was especially intense because many Japanese laborers migrated from Hawai’i, where Americans in the continental United States believed a labor arrangement similar to slavery existed. The sugar industry in Hawai’i had long relied on the labor of foreign contract workers. Although the physical punishment of servants and laborers had been prohibited since 1850, abuse and whipping remained unchecked in practice. Americans keenly observed the conditions of contract labor in the islands, characterizing it as a form of slavery. A newspaper in San Francisco, for instance, pointed to “the existence of virtual chattel slavery” on the sugar plantations in Hawai’i.[3] Planters maintained that the existing labor relations were necessary for the survival of the sugar industry, but Americans dismissed this argument as identical to the one “used before our civil war in America, by the Southern planters, in order to justify slavery.”[4] Californians argued that the Japanese working under slavery in Hawai’i would bring the institution to the United States. As the United States increasingly engaged with Asia and the Pacific through immigration, restrictionists on the West Coast invoked slavery and the Civil War to justify the exclusion of Asians.[5]

Japanese immigration in the late nineteenth century, however, was hardly the first instance where the United States’ transpacific connections intersected with the issues and legacies of the Civil War. Throughout the Civil War era, US contacts with Asia and the Pacific directly affected the course of American history, stimulating the nation’s commercial and territorial ambitions, contributing to the development of American capitalism through the labor of Asians and Pacific Islanders, and adding new layers to national debates over immigration and citizenship in the age of emancipation. Historians have examined the racist perceptions of Chinese immigrants as servile coolies equivalent to slaves in the antebellum period—a precursor of later anti-Japanese prejudice—and the importation of Chinese workers into plantations in the post-emancipation South. As Moon-Ho Jung, Stacey L. Smith, Mae Ngai, and Kevin Kenny have demonstrated, the prejudiced identification of Chinese workers as slaves justified the restriction of Chinese immigration as an antislavery measure.[6] Beyond these subjects, however, scholarship on the Civil War era in its international context has concentrated on the relationship between the United States and the Atlantic World, overlooking events unfolding in Asia and the Pacific. The “Atlantic framework,” as Steven Hahn observes in his synthetic history of the long-nineteenth-century United States, “greatly underestimates the importance of the Pacific as an increasingly powerful field of force.”[7]

This forum examines how US interaction with Asia and the Pacific shaped race relations, gender ideology, diplomacy, and legal rights in the United States during the second half of the nineteenth century. The authors specialize in the history of the American West, African American history, Asian American history, the history of the US empire, immigration history, and legal history. By examining the first Japanese diplomatic mission to the United States, the experience of Black migrants in Japan, Chinese women’s habeas corpus litigations, and the naturalized citizenship of Chinese Americans, the forum integrates Asia and the Pacific into Civil War–era scholarship. By doing so, it also calls for more research on the nineteenth century in Asian American historiography, which pays disproportionate attention to the twentieth century.[8]

Three strands of historiography inform this forum. The first is the international history of the Civil War era. Historians have long examined slavery and emancipation in comparative perspectives, the transatlantic dimensions of abolitionism, and Union and Confederate diplomacy during the Civil War.[9] The “transnational turn” in US historiography over the last two decades has significantly accelerated the trend of interpreting social, political, and ideological developments in the United States during the Civil War era in broader contexts. Some of the most intensively studied subjects include diplomacy, perceptions of the Civil War outside the United States, intersections between Confederate and European assertions of nationalism and self-determination, parallels in the process of nation building among the United States, Canada, and Europe, and the transatlantic and hemispheric history of abolitionism and emancipation.[10] The field is also developing new interests in Latin America, especially Mexico, as a destination for fugitive slaves and former Confederate emigrants.[11] All of these studies have substantially deepened our understanding of abolitionism, wartime nationalism, and the origins, meanings, and consequences of emancipation in the United States. Nevertheless, this scholarship has predominantly focused on Europe and the Americas, mostly overlooking Asia and the Pacific, except for occasional references to the Taiping Rebellion in China as another (and even bloodier) civil war in midcentury and the Meiji Restoration of 1868 in Japan as a case of nation building coterminous with the Reconstruction of the United States.[12]

This forum’s examination of the transpacific aspects of Civil War–era history is also guided by a second vibrant strand of the field: the American West during the Civil War and Reconstruction. The West has long been overlooked or reduced to relative insignificance in Civil War–era scholarship, with the exceptions of such key moments as the Compromise of 1850. As historians seek to stretch the geographical scope of their analysis beyond North and South, however, they increasingly put the West into the narrative of the Civil War era, interpreting events happening in or arising from the region as part of a wider social, political, and legal story at the national level. Western historian Elliott West, for example, proposed the concept of “Greater Reconstruction,” which views the Civil War and Reconstruction as a “continental process” shaped by the experiences of not only white and Black Americans but also indigenous peoples, Mexicans, and Chinese immigrants.[13] In light of this approach, the Thirteenth Amendment’s application to southwestern peonage, federal exclusion laws that denied naturalized citizenship to the Chinese, and federal policy for breaking up indigenous lands and granting US citizenship to Native Americans can all be understood as parts of the national government’s attempt to establish the United States’ territorial sovereignty in the postbellum period.[14]

Scholarship on the West has significantly broadened our perspectives on the Civil War era, but some aspects remain underexplored. In her recent review essay of the field, Stacey L. Smith, one of the authors in this forum, points out that while this scholarship has extensively explored US wars against indigenous peoples in the West, it often fails to fully investigate the ways racial diversity in the West shaped citizenship and state power in the Civil War era, an analysis that would require historians to pay more attention to the experiences of Chinese immigrants, Mexicans, and African Americans who migrated to the West from other parts of the country. “Civil War West” scholarship also places a strong emphasis on the Great Plains and the Southwest, but, like international Civil War scholarship, it tends to overlook the Pacific Coast.[15] To better understand the federal government’s imperial ambitions to expand commercial opportunities outside North America, and the kind of polity it sought to consolidate in the United States in the postbellum period, historians of the Civil War era need to investigate more substantively the politics of Chinese immigration and the experiences of the Chinese in the American West. This forum takes up this task.[16]

Pacific history provides the third main context of this forum. One of the major emphases in historical scholarship over the last two decades is on social, cultural, economic, and political integrations through exploration, migration, trade, diplomacy, and conquest in the Pacific World—a region that embraced East Asia, Southeast Asia, Oceania and the Pacific Islands, and North and South America. Pacific history examines diasporic movements and interactions of peoples from and within these regions, including migrant workers, voyagers, missionaries, and explorers; maritime traffic systems; circulations of culture, capital, and ideas; Asian, European, and American commercial ventures across the Pacific; and local, regional, and global forces that promoted these developments. Like its Atlantic counterpart, Pacific history has different spatial framings depending on its practitioners. Some historians focus on specific locations, such as the Pacific Rim and the Pacific Islands, while others highlight networks across the Pacific. Regardless of the place of analytical focus, Pacific history necessarily links Asian history, US history, and Asian American history, and it is these connections that inspire the present forum.[17]

The Civil War era in US history corresponds with a critical juncture in Pacific history. Adam McKeown has called the 1850s “the apex of Pacific integration.” The California gold rush, along with other gold rushes in North America and Australia, was one of the events that contributed to a “global boom in trade and mobility” in this period, stimulating international migration from multiple parts of the world and the transpacific dissemination of the goods produced by migrants. Chinese immigration to the American West was a major part and consequence of this process.[18] As Gregory Rosenthal has recently shown, midcentury Pacific integration was also characterized by the diasporic movement of Hawaiian migrant workers, who left Hawai’i in search of employment and opportunities in equatorial Pacific Islands, Alaska, and North America, including gold rush California. With their labor and the commodities they extracted and circulated across the Pacific Ocean, these indigenous workers helped facilitate “transoceanic capitalist integration.” Rosenthal thus argues that “nineteenth-century California was an integral part of the Hawaiian Pacific World.”[19]

The US government also participated in Pacific integration when it “opened” Japan by pressuring the Tokugawa Bakufu to end its isolation policy. Charged by the federal government with a mission to secure agreements from Japan for fair treatment of American shipwrecked sailors and provision of fuel and supplies to US ships operating in the Pacific, Matthew C. Perry arrived in Japan with his fleet in 1853. Perry’s gunboat diplomacy resulted in the signing of the Treaty of Peace and Amity in 1854, which recognized US demands for the protection of American sailors, the supply of coal and provisions, the establishment of a US consulate, and most-favored nation status. By the end of the decade, the United States had also obtained a trade agreement with Japan, establishing American commercial and strategic presence in East Asia and the Pacific.[20]20 While ultimately helping trigger the collapse of Tokugawa rule, the opening of Japan contributed significantly to the transpacific movement of people, including laborers, diplomats, sailors, and merchants.

This forum examines transpacific connections in the Civil War era by pursuing two central themes. The first half investigates the emergence during the 1860s and 1870s of new discourses that challenged dominant gender and racial ideologies in the nineteenth-century United States, as a result of diplomatic exchanges with Japan and Black Americans’ transpacific migration to the country. The second half analyzes the experiences of Chinese immigrants to explore a second theme: the rights of Asians in the United States in the Civil War era. These two themes are by no means exhaustive. The forum might have brought Oceania into the scope of analysis, for example, by including work on the migration of Pacific Islanders.[21] Focusing only on the Japanese and Chinese contexts, with strong attention to the Pacific rim, the four articles collected here represent a particular thread of Pacific history, a small sample among many possibilities in the study of transpacific connections in the Civil War era.

The first two articles analyze the impact of transpacific connections on nineteenth-century American gender and racial ideologies. Ikuko Asaka’s piece examines a diplomatic visit by Japanese samurai to the United States in 1860 to exchange treaties ratified between the two countries. Investigating how the Japanese delegation was treated by white Americans and described in newspapers and magazines, Asaka argues that the Japanese men’s visit disrupted the normative gender dualism of men and women in antebellum American society, which attached privilege and power to maleness, especially that of white people. Reflecting white men’s racist and orientalist view of Asians, newspapers and magazines presented the Japanese diplomats as female figures, based on their dress and demeanor, and underscored the femininity of their sensibilities. The press also condemned white women who appeared at reception sites to greet the Japanese emissaries for intruding into formal diplomatic areas. Yet, despite these assertions of white men’s racial and gender superiority, the Japanese were welcomed at decidedly male public spaces, such as the State Department and the White House, which implied recognition of the Japanese men’s masculine political authority in American society. Asaka analyzes journals of the Japanese delegates to demonstrate that they also upset the normative denial of public roles to women by interacting with white women on the streets and in other urban spaces, allowing them to help foster friendship between the United States and Japan, a subtle but significant form of diplomatic activity. Illuminating the coexistence of the orientalist feminization of the Japanese men and the confirmation of their maleness as public officials, Asaka argues that the Japanese diplomatic mission created a new configuration of gender and sexuality that defied the existing structure of political power and privilege in late antebellum America. Pacific diplomacy thus provided crucial moments when the predominant assumptions about race, gender, and sexuality collapsed.

In the second article, Stacey L. Smith examines a group of Black Americans living in Japan during the 1860s and 1870s, focusing on the experience of Peter K. L. Cole, who resided in the treaty port of Yokohama between 1866 and 1873 as a merchant, diplomatic aide, and reporter for the Elevator, a Black San Francisco newspaper. Witnessing the modernization and westernization efforts of Japan, the Civil War, Reconstruction, and overseas  expansion of the United States, Cole developed distinctive ideas about race and Black Americans’ place in the US empire. He envisioned Black Americans as equal partners with white Americans in expanding American commercial interests in East Asia and the Pacific. Cole elaborated on this idea in ways that countered the stigmatization of Black Americans in the United States. Adopting a Western sense of cultural and moral superiority over Asians, he presented Black Americans as full-fledged members of the civilized United States. He often referred to Black Americans in Japan as “foreigners” or “Americans,” not by any racial designation, so that they could be aligned with other Europeans and white Americans as a single group of modernized people, as opposed to the backward Japanese. Cole also applied ideas of settler colonialism to the Japanese, who he thought should be assimilated into modernity, just like Native Americans in the United States. Ultimately, Cole’s claims to interracial supremacy were silenced as a system of class segregation developed by wealthy white British merchants alienated Black residents in Yokohama, the majority of whom were in trades, such as clerical workers and shopkeepers, scorned by the elite. Nevertheless, Cole’s negotiation of the cultural map of Japan shows that some Black Americans took part in the consolidation of US presence in East Asia and the Pacific. Historians of Reconstruction have produced a robust body of scholarship on Black Americans’ claims to equality and belonging to the United States after the Civil War on the basis of their birth on American soil, military service during the war, and contributions to the cultivation of land through their labor. The United States’ transpacific expansion allowed Black Americans to make these claims in different ways by asserting their roles as agents of US empire abroad.

Chinese immigration to the United States was one of the most important consequences of Pacific integration in the mid-nineteenth century. The last two articles of the forum uncover little-known aspects of the debates over Chinese immigrants’ freedom and legal rights in the Civil War era related to habeas corpus and naturalization, with particular attention to the transpacific contexts of this history. Tian Xu’s article examines connections between Chinese habeas corpus petitions against sexual commerce and the detention of Chinese immigrant women in California from the 1850s to the 1880s. Habeas corpus petitions allowed Chinese immigrants to challenge Chinese exclusion law and secure entry to the United States in the late nineteenth century. Xu sheds light on the less familiar aspects of the Chinese habeas petitions by revealing how they provided Chinese women in California with a legal device for freedom from Chinese brothel owners and human traffickers, who participated in transpacific networks of sexual commerce. Habeas corpus, however, could also work against the interests of Chinese women, in the case of immigrant detention. When the interests of California government officials, Chinese merchant leaders, and Christian missionaries in restricting the importation of Chinese prostitutes converged, the habeas hearing became a site where the moral character of Chinese women was tested, leading to the detention and exclusion of those deemed “lewd and debauched.” Xu’s article thus highlights the diverse forms of legal encounters between transpacific systems of human trafficking and the regulation of morality in the American West. Building on recent scholarship’s recognition that freedom was contested over multiple groups of people, including Black Americans, Native Americans, Mexicans, Chinese immigrants, women, and the poor, across the United States during the Civil War and Reconstruction, the article puts Chinese women in California into the broader landscape of struggles for freedom in the period.

In the final article, Beth Lew-Williams reconsiders Chinese immigrants’ relationship with US naturalization law. Historians have viewed the inability to naturalize as a defining characteristic of the Chinese experience in the nineteenth-century United States. The conventional narrative is that Radical Republicans’ proposal to make naturalization law colorblind during Reconstruction failed due to California politicians’ fear of extending US citizenship to the Chinese, leaving them as permanent aliens. As Lew-Williams reveals, however, despite the legal bar, a significant number of Chinese immigrants across the United States managed to naturalize to the extent that nearly 7 percent of the Chinese-born population in the country obtained US citizenship by 1900. In light of this fact, Lew-Williams urges historians to examine how the Chinese were able to naturalize and the historical implications of this accomplishment, rather than uncritically taking Chinese migrants’ alien status for granted. Many Chinese naturalized at courthouses within the contiguous United States, but America’s territorial expansion into the Pacific also opened a new route to US citizenship for the Chinese. The Hawaiian Organic Act of 1900 naturalized former citizens of the Republic of Hawai’i, turning its citizens of Chinese descent into US citizens. US citizenship also made a transpacific life possible for Chinese Americans by allowing them to leave and reenter the United States, a kind of movement denied to most Chinese immigrants under the exclusion laws. At the same time, Lew-Williams recognizes the fundamental fragility of the naturalized citizenship of Chinese Americans, who were subjected to constant threats of denaturalization, which could happen through collaboration between US diplomats in China and the secretary of state in Washington, DC. Nevertheless, the story of Chinese naturalization enriches the political and legal historiography of Reconstruction by demonstrating that Chinese alienage was not as absolute as historians tend to think. Together, the articles by Xu and Lew-Williams show that transpacific connections provided an important context in which Asian immigrants pursued their rights in postbellum America.

As a whole, this forum invites historians to consider Asia and the Pacific as they study the United States in the Civil War era. Migration and diplomacy are organizing concepts in this volume. Future research could pursue those themes, or it could take other approaches and focus on other subjects. For instance, much remains to be investigated concerning how ideas and practices of unfree labor traveled across the Pacific world.[22] And much more could be done to explore links between Hawai’i as the producer of sugar and California as the processing center in explorations of commercial and imperial visions in the post–Civil War Pacific.[23] The rich field of the Civil War era, in short, could be even richer with more perspectives from Asia and the Pacific.

[1] Thomas A. Klug, “The Detroit Labor Movement and the United States–Canada Border, 1885–1930,” Mid-America 80 (Fall 1998): 222.

[2] San Francisco Call, June 12, 1892.

[3] Salt Lake Semi-Weekly, July 6, 1897; Edward D. Beechert, Working in Hawaii: A Labor History (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 1985), 40–57.

[4] House of Representatives, Ex. Doc. 176, 48th Cong., 1st Sess., pt. 2, 835 (1884).

[5] For a recent study of immigration in the Civil War era, see the forum on the subject in the September 2021 issue of the Journal of the Civil War Era. Katherine Carper and Kevin Kenny, “Introduction: Immigration in the Civil War Era,” Journal of the Civil War Era 11 (September 2021): 311–16, and following articles by Michael A. Schoeppner, Katherine Carper, Kevin Kenny, and Lucy E. Salyer.

[6] Moon-Ho Jung, Coolies and Cane: Race, Labor, and Sugar in the Age of Emancipation (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2006); Stacey L. Smith, Freedom’s Frontier: California and the Struggle over Unfree Labor, Emancipation, and Reconstruction (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2013); Mae Ngai, The Chinese Question: The Gold Rushes and Global Politics (New York: W. W. Norton, 2021); Kevin Kenny, The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic: Policing Mobility in the Nineteenth-Century United States(New York: Oxford University Press, 2023).

[7] Steven Hahn, A Nation without Borders: The United States and Its World in an Age of Civil Wars, 1830–1910 (New York: Viking, 2016), 3.

[8] There are exceptions to the trend of Asian American historiography’s focus on the twentieth century. Most recent ones include Sue Fawn Chung, Chinese in the Woods: Logging and Lumbering in the American West (Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 2015); Beth Lew-Williams, The Chinese Must Go: Violence, Exclusion, and the Making of the Alien in America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018); Kazuhiro Oharazeki, Japanese Prostitutes in the North American West, 1887–1920 (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2018); Gordon H. Chang, Ghosts of Gold Mountain: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019); Ngai, Chinese Question; Mark T. Johnson, The Middle Kingdom under the Big Sky: A History of the Chinese Experience in Montana (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2022).

[9] Eric Foner, Nothing but Freedom: Emancipation and Its Legacy (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); Richard Blackett, Building an Antislavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830–1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); Peter Kolchin, Unfree Labor: American Slavery and Russian Serfdom (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1990); Jay Sexton, Debtor Diplomacy: Finance and American Foreign Relations in the Civil War Era, 1837–1873 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[10] For studies on these subjects, see Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill & Wang, 2006); Edward Bartlett Rugemer, The Problem of Emancipation: The Caribbean Roots of the American Civil War (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2008); Don H. Doyle, ed., Secession as an International Phenomenon: From America’s Civil War to Contemporary Separatist Movements (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 2010); David Armitage et al., “Interchange: Nationalism and Internationalism in the Era of the Civil War,” Journal of American History 98 (September 2011): 455–89; Paul Quigley, Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848–1865 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012); Andrew M. Fleche, The Revolution of 1861: The American Civil War in the Age of Nationalist Conflict (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012); Robert E. May, Slavery, Race, and Conquest in the Tropics: Lincoln, Douglas, and the Future of Latin America (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2013); David T. Gleeson and Simon Lewis, eds., The Civil War as Global Conflict: Transnational Meanings of the American Civil War (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2014); Don H. Doyle, The Cause of All Nations: An International History of the American Civil War (New York: Basic Books, 2015); Matthew Karp, This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016); Ikuko Asaka, Tropical Freedom: Climate, Settler Colonialism, and Black Exclusion in the Age of Emancipation (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2017); Paul Ortiz, An African American and Latinx History of the United States(Boston: Beacon, 2018); David Prior, ed., Reconstruction in a Globalizing World (New York: Fordham University Press, 2018); Enrico Dal Lago, Civil War and Agrarian Unrest: The Confederate South and Southern Italy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Gregory P. Downs, The Second American Revolution: The Civil War–Era Struggle over Cuba and the Rebirth of the American Republic (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2019); Ann L. Tucker, Newest Born of Nations: European Nationalist Movements and the Making of the Confederacy (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2020); Jewel L. Spangler and Frank Towers, eds., Remaking North American Sovereignty: State Transformations in the 1860s (New York: Fordham University Press, 2020); David Prior, ed., Reconstruction and Empire: The Legacies of Abolition and Union Victory for an Imperial Age (New York: Fordham University Press, 2022); Evan C. Rothera, Civil Wars and Reconstructions in the Americas: The United States, Mexico, and Argentina, 1860–1880 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2022).

[11] Todd W. Wahlstrom, The Southern Exodus to Mexico: Migration across the Borderlands after the American Civil War (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2015); Alice L. Baumgartner, South to Freedom: Runaway Slaves to Mexico and the Road to the Civil War(New York: Basic Books, 2020); Alan P. Marcus, Confederate Exodus: Social and Environmental Forces in the Migration of U.S. Southerners to Brazil (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2021).

[12] Bender, Nation among Nations; Armitage et al., “Interchange”; Richard Carwardine and Jay Sexton, eds., The Global Lincoln (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011).

[13] Stacey L. Smith, “Beyond North and South: Putting the West in the Civil War and Reconstruction,” Journal of the Civil War Era 6 (December 2016): 572–74; Elliott West, “Reconstructing Race,” in The Essential West: Collected Essays (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2012), 100–126.

[14] Smith, “Beyond North and South,” 567. Representative studies of the West in the Civil War era include Heather Cox Richardson, West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007); Leonard L. Richards, The California Gold Rush and the Coming of the Civil War (New York: Knopf, 2007); Ari Kelman, A Misplaced Massacre: Struggling Over the Memory of Sand Creek (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2013); D. Michael Bottoms, An Aristocracy of Color: Race and Reconstruction in California and the West, 1850–1890 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2013); Smith, Freedom’s Frontier; Adam Arenson and Andrew R. Graybill, eds., Civil War Wests: Testing the Limits of the United States (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015); William S. Kiser, Borderlands of Slavery: The Struggle Over Captivity and Peonage in the American Southwest (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017); Megan Kate Nelson, The Three-Cornered War: The Union, the Confederacy, and Native Peoples in the Fight for the West (New York: Scribner, 2020); Kevin Waite, West of Slavery: The Southern Dream of a Transcontinental Empire (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2021); William S. Kiser, Illusions of Empire: The Civil War and Reconstruction in the U.S.–Mexico Borderlands (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022).

[15] Smith, “Beyond North and South,” 584–85.

[16] Some scholars’ works must be noted as important exceptions to the neglect of Chinese immigration in Civil War–era scholarship. See Najia Aarim-Heriot, Chinese Immigrants, African Americans, and Racial Anxiety in the United States, 1848–1882 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2003); Edlie L. Wong, Racial Reconstruction: Black Inclusion, Chinese Exclusion, and the Fictions of Citizenship (New York: New York University Press, 2015); Lucy E. Salyer, “Reconstructing the Immigrant: The Naturalization Act of 1870 in Global Perspective,” Journal of the Civil War Era 11 (September 2021): 382–405; Kenny, The Problem of Immigration in a Slaveholding Republic, 145–56, 179–202, 208–13.

[17] Matt K. Matsuda, “The Pacific,” American Historical Review 111, no. 3 (2006): 758–80; Gary Y. Okihiro, Island World: A History of Hawai’i and the United States (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008); Matt K. Matsuda, Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas, Peoples, and Cultures (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2012); David Igler, The Great Ocean: Pacific Worlds from Captain Cook to the Gold Rush (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); David Armitage and Alison Bashford, eds., Pacific Histories: Ocean, Land, People (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); Janet Hoskins and Viet Thanh Nguyen, eds., Transpacific Studies: Framing an Emerging Field(Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2014); Gary Y. Okihiro, American History Unbound: Asians and Pacific Islanders (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015); Paul A. Kramer, “A Complex of Seas: Passages between Pacific Histories,” Amerasia Journal 42, no. 3 (2016): 32–41; Lon Kurashige, ed., Pacific America: Histories of Transoceanic Crossings (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017); David Armitage, Alison Bashford, and Sujit Sivasundaram, eds., Oceanic Histories (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2018); Matt K. Matsuda, A Primer for Teaching Pacific Histories: Ten Design Principles (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2020); Henry Knight Lozano, California and Hawai’i Bound: U.S. Settler Colonialism and the Pacific West, 1848–1959 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2021); Jinah Kim and Nitasha Tamar Sharma, “Center-to-Center Relationalities: At the Nexus of Pacific Islands Studies and Trans-Pacific Studies,” Critical Ethnic Studies 7, no. 2 (2021),

[18] Adam McKeown, “Movement,” in Armitage and Bashford, Pacific Histories, 150; Ngai, Chinese Question.

[19] Gregory Rosenthal, Beyond Hawai’i: Native Labor in the Pacific World (Oakland: University of California Press, 2018), 1, 14. On Pacific Islanders, see also Nicholas Thomas, Islanders: The Pacific in the Age of Empire (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010); David A. Chang, “Borderlands in a World at Sea: Concow Indians, Native Hawaiians, and South Chinese in Indigenous, Global, and National Spaces,” Journal of American History 98, no. 2 (2011): 384–403; Bronwen Douglas, Science, Voyages, and Encounters in Oceania, 1511–1850 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014); David A. Chang, The World and All the Things upon It: Native Hawaiian Geographics of Exploration (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2016); Juliann Anesi et al., “(Re)centering Pacific Islanders in Trans-Pacific Studies: Transdisciplinary Dialogue, Critique, and Reflections from the Diaspora,” Critical Ethnic Studies 7, no 2 (2021),

[20] Matsuda, Pacific Worlds, 233–38.

[21] Anesi et al., “(Re)centering Pacific Islanders in Trans-Pacific Studies.”

[22] For instance, in a recent journal article, Christopher Florio examined attempts by overseers on southern plantations to export the practices of American slavery to British India in the 1840s. Christopher M. Florio, “From Poverty to Slavery: Abolitionists, Overseers, and the Global Struggle for Labor in India,” Journal of American History 102, no. 4 (2016): 1005–24.

[23] Lozano, California and Hawai’i Bound, 80.

Hidetaka Hirota

Hidetaka Hirota is an associate professor of history at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Expelling the Poor: Atlantic Seaboard States and the Nineteenth-Century Origins of American Immigration Policy (2017).

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