The End of the Myth: From the Frontier to the Border Wall in the Mind of America

Author(s): Greg Grandin

History | Pulitzer Prize

A new and eye-opening interpretation of the meaning of the frontier, from early westward expansion to Trump's border wall.

Ever since this nation's inception, the idea of an open and ever-expanding frontier has been central to American identity. Symbolizing a future of endless promise, it was the foundation of the United States' belief in itself as an exceptional nation - democratic, individualistic, forward-looking. Today, though, America hasa new symbol: the border wall.

In The End of the Myth, acclaimed historian Greg Grandin explores the meaning of the frontier throughout the full sweep of U.S. history - from the American Revolution to the War of 1898, the New Deal to the election of 2016. For centuries, he shows, America's constant expansion - fighting wars and opening markets - served as a "gate of escape," helping to deflect domestic political and economic conflicts outward. But this deflection meant that the country's problems, from racism to inequality, were never confronted directly. And now, the combined catastrophe of the 2008 financial meltdown and our unwinnable wars in the Middle East have slammed this gate shut, bringing political passions that had long been directed elsewhere back home.

It is this new reality, Grandin says, that explains the rise of reactionary populism and racist nationalism, the extreme anger and polarization that catapulted Trump to the presidency. The border wall may or may not be built, but it will survive as a rallying point, an allegorical tombstone marking the end of American exceptionalism.


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Winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction

"An essential, sweeping history of the American frontier, its end and what it has meant to our nation's sense of itself." --Los Angeles Times 

"The End of the Myth aims, in part, to reposition race-based violence to the center of the frontier narrative [and] situate today's calls to fortify our borders in relation to the centuries of racial animus that preceded them... A vital corrective to popular conceptions." --The New Yorker 

"The End of the Myth kicks hard-packed certainties into dust as Grandin strides across three centuries... to supply rich new context to familiar events and pluck neglected ones from the shadows." --American Scholar

General Fields

  • : 9781250214850
  • : Henry Holt & Company
  • : Metropolitan Books
  • : January 2020
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Greg Grandin
  • : Paperback
  • : English
  • : 384