Review of Norman E. Saul Distant Friends: the United States & Russia, 1763-1867

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In Distant Friends: The United States & Russia, 1763-1867 Norman Saul analyzes the relationship between the United States and Russia, beginning in the colonial period, in 1763, and continuing after the Civil War to 1867. The author focuses on the nature and chronology of this relationship by examining the political, economic, diplomatic, and cultural ties between the nations. One point emphasized repeatedly is how very different America was to Russia. The crux of this argument rests on the differing history and development of the two nations. Another point is both nations, as was pointed out by contemporary critics, had vastly differing governmental structures in the form of the American Republic and the Russian Autocracy, which begged the question: Would the differences inherent between these systems eventually lead to conflict? The author rebuts this assessment.

Through common interests, both nations began to grow closer together, beginning in the colonial period. This relationship continued to grow as a result of the aforementioned internal factors, but also from external ones. The shared sentiments of Anglophobia and later, Francophobia, brought the two nations closer together, leading to a general outpouring of sympathy and sentiment for both sides during the Crimean War and the Civil War. Additionally, both nations benefited by not competing with one another in areas of expansion. In summation, this text focuses on the early American-Russian relationship and the factors that marked this relationship as beneficial and friendly.

The initial relationship between the nations was based on trade. Russia would not be an active participant, but her intellectuals were affected by the republican and democrati...

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...rnments to continue a beneficial relationship promoted this relationship.

Distant Friends: The United States & Russia, 1763-1867 is a remarkable text that analyzes American and Russian relations over a period of one hundred years. Although the author does not present a clear thesis at the start of the book, he focuses on the nature of the relationship between these countries and how it developed. He gives a thorough discussion of the relationship between the countries without being overly tedious. One criticism of this thoroughness is that he sometimes is too thorough by segueing into largely irrelevant topics pertaining to the relationship between the two countries, i.e. the discussion of John Paul Jones and his service in the Russian navy. In closing, it is my opinion that this is a vital text for any scholar of early American-Russian relations.
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