The End of the Myth Book Summary - The End of the Myth Book explained in key points
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The End of the Myth summary

Greg Grandin

From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

3.7 (32 ratings)
31 mins

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The End of the Myth by Greg Grandin examines the concept of American exceptionalism and the myth of the frontier. He argues that the idea has been used to justify imperialism and exploitation.

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    The End of the Myth
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    Prosperity has been linked to frontier expansion since America’s earliest days.

    There has been a lot of speculation and theorizing on the subject of Trumpism. How did American politics arrive at Trump’s message of antimigrant wall-building and isolationism?

    You might think Trump’s extreme nativist attitudes came from out of the blue, but, in fact, they can be traced back to America’s formative years. One of Trumpism’s most compelling arguments is that opportunities for prosperity are not limitless, not everyone can share in that prosperity, and government policy should reflect this reality.

    The Trump administration didn’t invent this idea, but there’s a reason why it’s relevant now – perhaps more than ever. It all comes down to the myth of the American frontier.

    The key message here is: Prosperity has been linked to frontier expansion since America’s earliest days.

    When British settlers first arrived on the east coast of what would become the United States of America, there was a sense of unprecedented space. The question was, what would the settlers do with it all?

    There were, of course, Native Americans – or Indians, as they were called – living on this land. So in 1763, a Royal Proclamation came down from Britain’s King George III. In it, he drew a line down the Alleghenies (now called the Ozark Mountains) and said that everything to the west of the mountain range belonged to the Indians. Of course, in 1776, Americans broke free from British rule, and there was little debate as to whether the Royal Proclamation still carried any authority. It didn’t.

    Very early on, the nation’s success was directly linked to expansion. One of the Founding Fathers, James Madison, saw the vastness of the United States as a stabilizing force. Madison recognized that among the country’s citizens were people of different religions and values. So the first step to keeping America stable and prosperous would be to have its people see this diversity as one of the country’s great virtues. Then, in order to keep this potentially combustible diverseness from exploding, the second step would have to be expansion. Like-minded folks would naturally congregate and form their own communities, and with enough space between them, these communities would be able to live in harmony.

    Madison’s plan seemed viable in theory. But in the early United States, there was also the founding principle of equality to consider. The issue of the lives and rights of Native Americans, Mexicans, and freed peoples would, throughout the years, test Madison’s vision that diversity and expansion were the keys to peaceful coexistence.

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    What is The End of the Myth about?

    The End of the Myth (2019) offers a revealing look at how America’s frontier mind-set has guided and protected the nation through its troubled history. You’ll see how the expansion of that frontier has served to keep fundamental problems of racism and inequality from being dealt with and find out if the myth of the American frontier has finally died.

    The End of the Myth Review

    The End of the Myth (2019) by Greg Grandin is a thought-provoking exploration of the American myth of the frontier and its impact on the nation's identity. Here's why this book is worth reading:

    • Offers a fresh perspective on American history, challenging conventional narratives and revealing the complexities of the frontier experience.
    • Examines how the myth of the frontier shaped American policies and ideologies, shedding light on current political and social issues.
    • Engaging and well-researched, the book delves into the myth's cultural, political, and economic consequences, keeping readers intrigued throughout.

    Best quote from The End of the Myth

    Madison knew that wealth could destroy virtue by dividing society into opposing factions: those who hold and those who are without.

    —Greg Grandin
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    Who should read The End of the Myth?

    • History buffs interested in the legacy of the United States
    • Anyone outraged at the mistreatment of migrants at the Mexican border
    • Students of political science and sociology

    About the Author

    Greg Grandin taught at New York University before joining Yale University’s history department. He’s also served on the United Nations Truth Commission and received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the New York Public Library. His books include The Empire of Necessity and Fordlandia, which was a finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award. 

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    The End of the Myth FAQs 

    What is the main message of The End of the Myth?

    The main message of The End of the Myth is an exploration of the American Dream, its myths, and the consequences of its pursuit.

    How long does it take to read The End of the Myth?

    The reading time for The End of the Myth varies depending on the reader's speed, but it typically takes several hours. The Blinkist summary can be read in just 15 minutes.

    Is The End of the Myth a good book? Is it worth reading?

    The End of the Myth offers a thought-provoking analysis of America's national identity, making it a worthwhile read for anyone interested in understanding the complexities of the American Dream.

    Who is the author of The End of the Myth?

    The author of The End of the Myth is Greg Grandin.

    What to read after The End of the Myth?

    If you're wondering what to read next after The End of the Myth, here are some recommendations we suggest:
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