Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations
Extradition and Extraterritoriality in the Borderlands and Beyond, 1877–1898

Daniel S. Margolies

A rising global power and its territorial, spatial, and jurisdictional assertions


"Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations is the first book to address the legal aspects of late nineteenth-century U.S. foreign relations. It fills a clear historiographical void and, in so doing, not only significantly enhances our understanding of U.S. foreign relations from 1877 to 1898 but also provides insight into the legal bases for governing the empire acquired after 1898. Based on prodigious and highly impressive research, it will be of interest to historians of U.S. foreign relations, of American legal history, and of the Gilded Age."
—Joseph A. Fry, author of Dixie Looks Abroad: The South and U.S. Foreign Relations, 1789–1973

"At a time when the 'transnational turn' dominates U.S. historiography, Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations unearths a forgotten history and makes fresh interventions in several fields, including the legal history of U.S. foreign relations and Mexican borderlands history. Theoretically sophisticated yet written in an accessible style, this is an ambitious and exciting book that links the local and the global, and connects the state and everyday life. Margolies provides a bold new account of law and power at the U.S. border in the nineteenth century."
—Christopher Capozzola, author of Uncle Sam Wants You: World War I and the Making of the Modern American Citizen

"This book's analysis on legal spatiality and territoriality and its explanation on how to conceptualize extradition in terms of foreign policy, governance, and borderlands are significant contributions to the history of American foreign relations and to U.S. legal history."
American Historical Review

"Spaces of Law is an important contribution to the scholarship on state violence and American state-building . . .This is an enthralling investigation of the sovereign exception in the making of American foreign policy practices."
—John McKiernan-Gonzalez, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Margolie's interpretation of cross-border raids, the legal status of anarchists as apolitical criminals undeserving of extradition exemptions, and the pride and hubris of treaty-making come through in lively narratives and offer considerable insight. Readers with an interest in critical theories of law, space, and the histories of the borderlands as a test site for U.S. empire will gain much."
—Ethan Blue, Journal of Southern History

“As a study of American efforts to construct transnational legal regimes that promoted its interests as it rose to world power status, Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations is a significant contribution to scholarship.”
—Max Paul Friedman, Western Legal History

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In the late nineteenth century the United States oversaw a great increase in extraterritorial claims, boundary disputes, extradition controversies, and transborder abduction and interdiction. In this sweeping history of the underpinnings of American empire, Daniel S. Margolies offers a new frame of analysis for historians to understand how novel assertions of legal spatiality and extraterritoriality were deployed in U.S. foreign relations during an era of increased national ambitions and global connectedness.

Whether it was in the Mexican borderlands or in other hot spots around the globe, Margolies shows that American policy responded to disputes over jurisdiction by defining the space of law on the basis of a strident unilateralism. Especially significant and contested were extradition regimes and the exceptions carved within them. Extradition of fugitives reflected critical questions of sovereignty and the role of the state in foreign affairs during the run-up to overseas empire in 1898.

Using extradition as a critical lens, Spaces of Law in American Foreign Relations examines the rich embeddedness of questions of sovereignty, territoriality, legal spatiality, and citizenship and shows that U.S. hegemonic power was constructed in significant part in the spaces of law, not simply through war or trade.

Page count: 378 pp.
6 b&w photos
Trim size: 6 x 9


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Daniel S. Margolies is a professor of history at Virginia Wesleyan College. He is the author of Henry Watterson and the New South: The Politics of Empire, Free Trade, and Globalization.