INTRODUCTION
BORDERS AND
THEIR HISTORIANS
IN NORTH AMERICA
. ........................................
Benjamin H. Johnson
and Andrew R. Graybill
IFox
n March 2005 George W. Bush welcomed Mexican president Vicente
and Canadian prime minister Paul Martin to his ranch in Crawford,
Texas. Their meeting was unusual, if only because the last o≈cial U.S.
gathering of the three continental heads of state had taken place more
than twelve years earlier, for the initialing of the North American Free
Trade Agreement. In contrast to the comity of that 1992 visit, this summit
revealed significant fissures dividing the nations, including the simmer-
ing dispute between Ottawa and Washington over the trade in softwood
lumber, and growing vigilantism directed at illegal Mexican immigrants
in the American Southwest. But on one thing Bush, Fox, and Martin could
readily agree: namely, that the fates of all three countries are knitted
together. As Martin put it: ‘‘Our safe borders secure our people not only
against terrorism, but they make possible a speedy flow of goods, services
and people and information among our three nations.’’∞
By comparison, historians of North America have been far more hesi-
tant to explore the interconnectedness of Canada, the United States, and
Mexico. Doubters need only consult the map section of most books on any
one of the three countries; almost invariably, the drawings end abruptly at
either the 49th parallel or the Rio Grande, as if weather patterns, topogra-
phy, or even human beings naturally observe such boundaries. There are
several reasons that may explain this persistent habit, but the most signifi-
cant is the simple fact that the nation-state has come to serve as the basic
unit of analysis in the modern practice of historical scholarship. As such,
many historians tend to color entirely ‘‘within the lines,’’ telling stories,
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