100 books like Agents of Manifest Destiny

By Charles H. Brown,

Here are 100 books that Agents of Manifest Destiny fans have personally recommended if you like Agents of Manifest Destiny. Shepherd is a community of 11,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Empire by Invitation: William Walker and Manifest Destiny in Central America

Robert E. May Author Of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

From my list on U.S. filibustering.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered the “filibusters” during my very first weeks in graduate school and have been learning and writing books and articles about them ever since. I think that what initially intrigued me was that they had outsized importance in U.S. politics and diplomacy, and were often front-page news before the Civil War, and yet I had never heard about them growing up. I was also intrigued because these men were so unlike myself. I can’t in my wildest moments even imagine joining a tiny bunch of armed men in an illegal expedition to a foreign land, risking death in the field or jail if I ever made it back home!

Robert's book list on U.S. filibustering

Robert E. May Why did Robert love this book?

Though he’s hardly a household name, William Walker, the most significant of the American filibusters, has been the subject of a surprising number of biographies. What is special about Michel Gobat’s book is his in-depth look at the actual government Walker set up to rule Nicaragua in the mid-1850s, the people he enlisted to run it, and his government’s ambitions and programs. Gobat suggests, importantly, that prior historians have underestimated Walker’s popular support in Nicaragua and overstated his ties to White southerners’ plans to expand U.S. slavery. 

By Michel Gobat,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Empire by Invitation as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Michel Gobat traces the untold story of the rise and fall of the first U.S. overseas empire to William Walker, a believer in the nation's manifest destiny to spread its blessings not only westward but abroad as well.

In the 1850s Walker and a small group of U.S. expansionists migrated to Nicaragua determined to forge a tropical "empire of liberty." His quest to free Central American masses from allegedly despotic elites initially enjoyed strong local support from liberal Nicaraguans who hoped U.S.-style democracy and progress would spread across the land. As Walker's group of "filibusters" proceeded to help Nicaraguans battle…


Book cover of The War in Nicaragua

Robert E. May Author Of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

From my list on U.S. filibustering.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered the “filibusters” during my very first weeks in graduate school and have been learning and writing books and articles about them ever since. I think that what initially intrigued me was that they had outsized importance in U.S. politics and diplomacy, and were often front-page news before the Civil War, and yet I had never heard about them growing up. I was also intrigued because these men were so unlike myself. I can’t in my wildest moments even imagine joining a tiny bunch of armed men in an illegal expedition to a foreign land, risking death in the field or jail if I ever made it back home!

Robert's book list on U.S. filibustering

Robert E. May Why did Robert love this book?

What could be better, if you wish to learn about the U.S. filibustering adventurers who invaded Latin America in the 1850s, than to read an account by the most famous of them—William Walker, who left Gold Rush California in 1855 to participate in a Nicaraguan Civil War and rose to the presidency there? The War in Nicaragua is Walker’s own autobiographical account of his campaigns and experiences in Nicaragua. Pay attention, particularly, to what he says about slavery and White supremacy towards the end of the book. And remember that Walker conquered Nicaragua over a half-century before the Panama Canal was built. Did his intervention there have anything to do with how Americans got from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean during the Gold Rush?

By William Walker,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The War in Nicaragua as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This work has been selected by scholars as being culturally important and is part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it.

This work is in the public domain in the United States of America, and possibly other nations. Within the United States, you may freely copy and distribute this work, as no entity (individual or corporate) has a copyright on the body of the work.

Scholars believe, and we concur, that this work is important enough to be preserved, reproduced, and made generally available to the public. To ensure a quality reading experience, this work has been…


Book cover of Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire

Robert E. May Author Of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

From my list on U.S. filibustering.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered the “filibusters” during my very first weeks in graduate school and have been learning and writing books and articles about them ever since. I think that what initially intrigued me was that they had outsized importance in U.S. politics and diplomacy, and were often front-page news before the Civil War, and yet I had never heard about them growing up. I was also intrigued because these men were so unlike myself. I can’t in my wildest moments even imagine joining a tiny bunch of armed men in an illegal expedition to a foreign land, risking death in the field or jail if I ever made it back home!

Robert's book list on U.S. filibustering

Robert E. May Why did Robert love this book?

Better than any other study on filibustering, Amy Greenberg treats it through the lens of gender, and she is particularly interested in public opinion about filibustering. Mass rallies in support of filibuster invasions of Cuba and Central America occurred in U.S. cities in the 1850s, providing funds, recruits, and moral support for criminal enterprises. What did gender have to do with who approved of filibustering, and who didn’t? What did filibustering have to do with ideas about what constituted proper masculinity? Did women participate in filibustering in any way, and did images of exoticized women in other parts of the world affect the attitudes of male filibusters?

Greenberg uses a fascinating variety of sources, including cartoons, poetry, travel accounts, and artwork, to convey the ambience of the filibustering world. Intriguingly, she both links and differentiates what she found about U.S. expansionist initiatives in Latin America before the Civil War to…

By Amy S. Greenberg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The US-Mexico War (1846-8) brought two centuries of dramatic territorial expansionism to a close, seemingly fulfilling America's Manifest destiny. Or did it? As politicians schemed to annex new lands in Latin America and the Pacific, some Americans took expansionism into their own hands. From 1848-60, an epidemic of unsanctioned attacks by American mercenaries (filibusters) took place. This book documents the potency of Manifest destiny in the antebellum era, and situates imperial lust in the context of social and economic transformations that were changing the meaning of manhood and womanhood in the US. Easy victory over Mexico in 1848 led many…


Book cover of Fatal Glory: Narciso Lopez and the First Clandestine U.S. War Against Cuba

Robert E. May Author Of Manifest Destiny's Underworld: Filibustering in Antebellum America

From my list on U.S. filibustering.

Why am I passionate about this?

I discovered the “filibusters” during my very first weeks in graduate school and have been learning and writing books and articles about them ever since. I think that what initially intrigued me was that they had outsized importance in U.S. politics and diplomacy, and were often front-page news before the Civil War, and yet I had never heard about them growing up. I was also intrigued because these men were so unlike myself. I can’t in my wildest moments even imagine joining a tiny bunch of armed men in an illegal expedition to a foreign land, risking death in the field or jail if I ever made it back home!

Robert's book list on U.S. filibustering

Robert E. May Why did Robert love this book?

Tom Chaffin is a great writer of narrative history, and this, his exciting first book, covers the daring filibuster attempts between 1849 and 1851 by a native Venezuelan to liberate Cuba from Spanish rule. López and many of his recruits died in two futile invasions of Cuba in 1850 and 1851, as his landings on Cuba’s shores were brutally repressed by Spanish military authorities. Lopez’s story fascinates on many levels, one of them being his contacts and intersections with key southern politicians of the time like John C. Calhoun, Jefferson Davis, and Mississippi’s radical secessionist governor John A. Quitman, as well as New Yorker John L. O’Sullivan, the newsman often credited with coining the famous term “manifest destiny.” The book is great on the nuts and bolts of mounting filibuster expeditions and how filibuster leaders managed to launch their expeditions from U.S. soil despite attempts by U.S. legal officers and…

By Tom Chaffin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Fatal Glory as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Between 1848 and 1851, Lopez tried five times to dislodge Cuba's Spanish government. This text recounts Lopez's daring invasions of Cuba and reveals how he was assisted by New York steam ship magnates, penny press editors, Cuban industrialists and northern democratic urban bosses.


Book cover of Ordeal of the Union, Vol. 1: Fruits of Manifest Destiny, 1847-1852

James Traub Author Of What Was Liberalism?: The Past, Present, and Promise of a Noble Idea

From my list on the run-up to the American Civil War.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a journalist and NYU professor whose primary field is American foreign policy. As a biographer, however, I am drawn to American history and, increasingly, to the history of liberalism. I am now writing a biography of that arch-liberal, Hubert Humphrey. My actual subject thus appears to be wars of ideas. I began reading in-depth about the 1850s, when the question of slavery divided the nation in half, while writing a short biography of Judah Benjamin, Secretary of State of the Confederacy. (Judah Benjamin: Counselor To The Confederacy will be published in October.) It was the decade in which the tectonic fault upon which the nation was built erupted to the surface. There's a book for me in there somewhere, but I haven't yet found it.

James' book list on the run-up to the American Civil War

James Traub Why did James love this book?

The epic, multi-volume work of one of America's great mid-century historians. An old-fashioned work of immense erudition, vivid narrative, decisive judgment. Never before or since have so many great and consequential speeches been delivered in Congress; Nevins furnishes every one of them with suitable embellishment. Vols. 2-4 (in the 8-volume version) offer wonderful set pieces on the great events of the time--the Kansas-Nebraska debate, the Dred Scott case, the rise and election of Abraham Lincoln.

By Allan Nevins,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Ordeal of the Union, Vol. 1 as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Classic study of how and why the Civil War came about.


Book cover of Met His Every Goal? James K. Polk and the Legends of Manifest Destiny

Bob Brill Author Of The Tattoo Murder

From my list on solving historical mysteries.

Why am I passionate about this?

My entire life I’ve been a historian, a treasure hunter, and a crime solver, which is likely why I became a broadcast journalist and investigative reporter. Having worked cases, worked with police, and asked the questions I believe the public wanted answered, there isn’t much which gets by me. I see every story as a movie and every scene in life as a story that needs telling. One of my passions has always been genealogy which fits right into all of the above. I live by a simple saying, “Be a student of history, not a victim of it.”

Bob's book list on solving historical mysteries

Bob Brill Why did Bob love this book?

Polk was one of the most important presidents, considered Top 10, and he only served one term. He didn’t set out to be president. He got nominated because the bigwigs at the time couldn’t win their party's votes. Polk kept getting more votes as the ballots were turned in and became his party’s nominee. He won the election and set out three goals; get rid of the bank of the US, which was ripping the country off, expand the country to the west coast, and get rid of tariffs, all three of which he accomplished. He did it all in four years, chose not to run again, went home, and died. Talk about logical? Get it done, get it over with, and leave the future to someone else. 

By Tom Chaffin,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Met His Every Goal? James K. Polk and the Legends of Manifest Destiny as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Soon after winning the presidency in 1845, according to the oft-repeated anecdote, James K. Polk slapped his thigh and predicted what would be the ""four great measures"" of his administration: the acquisition of some or all of the Oregon Country, the acquisition of California, a reduction in tariffs, and the establishment of a permanent independent treasury. Over the next four years, the Tennessee Democrat achieved all four goals. And those milestones--along with his purported enunciation of them--have come to define his presidency. Indeed, repeated ad infinitum in U.S. history textbooks, Polk's bold listing of goals has become U.S. political history's…


Book cover of A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair: Soldiers and Social Conflict during the Mexican-American War

Peter Francis Guardino Author Of The Dead March: A History of the Mexican-American War

From my list on North America’s 19th century international wars.

Why am I passionate about this?

I have loved history since I was a child, and very early on, I realized that history was not something that was made only by famous people. My own relatives had migrated, worked at different jobs, served in wars, etc., and ordinary people like them have been the most important drivers of events. I had a chance to study in Mexico in my early twenties and rapidly fell in love with its people and history. Yet, ever since I was a child, I have been interested in the history of wars. My work on the Mexican-American War combines all of these passions. 

Peter's book list on North America’s 19th century international wars

Peter Francis Guardino Why did Peter love this book?

I hate books that make history bloodless and gloss over the often-ugly events that made the world what it is today. This is a short book with a lot of emotional energy, mostly in the form of burning outrage and irony.

I also really enjoyed how he made the voices of the American soldiers the central part of this book.

By Paul Foos,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Short, Offhand, Killing Affair as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The dark side of Manifest Destiny; The Mexican-American War (1846-48) found Americans on new terrain. A republic founded on the principle of armed defense of freedom was now going to war on behalf of Manifest Destiny, seeking to conquer an unfamiliar nation and people. Through an examination of rank-and-file soldiers, Paul Foos sheds new light on the war and its effect on attitudes toward other races and nationalities that stood in the way of American expansionism. Drawing on wartime diaries and letters not previously examined by scholars, Foos shows that the experience of soldiers in the war differed radically from…


Book cover of A Newer World: Kit Carson, John C. Fremont and the Claiming of the American West

Ron McFarland Author Of Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815-1865

From my list on biographies of army officers who wrested the West.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a retired English prof with a lifelong interest in history. My father fostered my fascination with Civil War battlefields, and growing up in Florida, I studied the Seminole wars in school and later at FSU. While teaching at the University of Idaho (nearly 50 years), I pursued my interest in the Indian wars of the mid-19th century and developed a curiosity about tribes in the inland Northwest, notably the Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, and Nez Perce. My critical biography of Blackfeet novelist James Welch occasioned reading and research on the Plains tribes. I recommend his nonfiction book, Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Fate the Plains Indians.

Ron's book list on biographies of army officers who wrested the West

Ron McFarland Why did Ron love this book?

As a boy, I encountered Kit Carson via the Landmark Books, and I could not resist rediscovering him in juxtaposition with his friend but non-kindred spirit, John C. Frémont, who nearly became president in 1856. Although Roberts mercifully spares us from exposing Frémont’s Civil War blunders, his account of the disastrous 1848-49 expedition renders the “Pathfinder” in his grandiosity a less sympathetic figure than the laconic scout. As Roberts notes in his epilogue concerning the feats of his two flawed subjects, “pure heroes or villains do not exist outside the pages of bad literature.” He likens the evolution of Carson as “thoughtless killer of Apaches and Blackfeet” to “defender and champion of the Utes” to a similar reversal in the case of General George Crook.

By David Roberts,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Newer World as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

In A Newer World, David Roberts serves as a guide through John C. Frémont's and Kit Carson's adventures through unknown American territory to achieve manifest destiny.

Between 1842 and 1854 John C. Frémont, renowned as the nineteenth century's greatest explorer, and Kit Carson, the legendary scout and Indian fighter, boldly ventured into untamed territory to fulfill America's "manifest destiny." Drawing on little-known primary sources, as well as his own travels through the lands Frémont and Carson explored, David Roberts recreates their expeditions, second in significance only to those of Lewis and Clark. A Newer World is a harrowing narrative of…


Book cover of In the Rogue Blood

Alden Bell Author Of The Reapers Are the Angels

From my list on in the tradition of William Faulkner.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a writer, I’ve been deeply influenced by Southern literature—especially the work of William Faulkner and Flannery O’Connor. Even though I’m not from the South myself, I am drawn to Southern writers’ immodesty. I believe much of contemporary literature is too timid. It is about the mundane, the everyday.  It does not elevate; instead, it diminishes.  Much of the literature of the South is biblical in its sensibilities.  It is unafraid to deal with the big universal issues with language that is equally big and universal.  It does not pander to modesty or postmodern selfconsciousness. It is audacious. It’s the kind of writing that made me want to write.

Alden's book list on in the tradition of William Faulkner

Alden Bell Why did Alden love this book?

Mixing Faulkner’s gothic language with McCarthy’s sense of history, Blake writes a story of two brothers torn apart by circumstance and their experiences in the Mexican-American War.  Blake captures that sense of aimless wandering that echoes Faulkner’s stories—the rootless characters meandering across the country, not only unsure of their destinations but maybe even indifferent to them. To me, one of the most profound twists in the book is that the brothers don’t seem to care which side of the war they participate in. They are itinerants whose purpose in the world is simply circumstantial; they are instruments of universal forces that they neither question nor understand. 

By James Carlos Blake,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked In the Rogue Blood as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The offspring of a whore mother and a homicidal father, Edward and John Little are driven from their home in the Florida swamplands by a sching parent's treacheries, and by a shameful, horrific act that will haunt their dreams for the rest of their days. Joining the swelling ranks of the rootless--wandering across an almost surreal bloodland populated by the sorrowfully lost and defiantly damned--two brothers are separated by death and circumstance in the lawless "Dixie City" of New Orelans, and dispatched by destiny to opposing sides in a fierce and desperate territorial struggled between Mexico and the United States.…


Book cover of Montana Diary

Shannon Watters Author Of Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy

From my list on comics when wishing you sat around a campfire.

Why am I passionate about this?

Not only have I been a comic book editor for sixteen years and obsessed with indie comics for much longer, I’m also an avid camper who co-created and co-wrote a comic book series that exalts in the unique feeling of sleeping under the stars. As such, excellent comics about outdoor adventures have a particularly tender spot in my heart.

Shannon's book list on comics when wishing you sat around a campfire

Shannon Watters Why did Shannon love this book?

The immediacy of Whit Taylor’s work and its accessible, urgent symbology is especially poignant in this diary of her Montana road trip with her husband.

Diary comics are one of my favorite genres of graphic storytelling for reasons exemplified here: you are engaging with Whit’s experience with this sprawling, beautiful land and its brutal history alongside her. Big sky, to her pen, to your eyes. It’s an intimate experience, one that comics do best.

By Whit Taylor,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Montana Diary as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

2021 Ignatz Award Nominee for Outstanding Minicomic
2021 PW Graphic Novel Critics Poll – Honorable Mention

Cartoonist Whit Taylor (The Nib, Fizzle) documents her road trip across Montana in this diary mini-comic, combining millennial humor with resonant observations about the state’s complicated history.

As she and her husband travel through semi-arid flatlands and sub-alpine mountains, Taylor reflects both on Montana’s breathtaking beauty and the enduring toll of Manifest Destiny on its land and people.

Balancing funny road trip anecdotes with thoughts on melting glaciers and the worrying prevalence of white nationalists, Montana Diary tells a slice of America’s story, knowing…


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