AmericanSantuary

“Asylum Once Defined America. Now, It Stands Imperiled,” Guardian, September 3, 2017

“Impertinent Questions with A. Roger Ekirch” Humanities: The Magazine of the National Endowment for the Humanities, Spring 2017

“Americanism in the Early Republic,” Wall Street Journal, April 8, 2017

“How the Bloodiest Mutiny in British Naval History Helped Create American Political Asylum,” Smithsonian Magazine, March 24, 2017   

Echoes from the Presidential Election of 1800,” Huffington Post, June 6, 2016          

 

American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom, and National Identity in the Age of  Revolution

Praise and Reviews

 “Deeply researched and elegantly written . . . Gripping and timely . . . It isn’t often that a reviewer of a history book needs to avoid spoilers, but Mr. Ekirch, a professor of history at Virginia Tech, is such a masterful storyteller that “American Sanctuary” reads like a mystery. .  .  . The most surprising of this book’s many insights is that, after the acrimony of the election of 1800, Americans returned to—and even broadened—a common definition of American citizenship rooted in the concept of liberty.”
- Kathleen DuVal, The Wall Street Journal

“The work of a master historian who is also a superb prose colorist, [American Sanctuary] is an example of what can result from historians’ endless search for additional understanding. In this case, the material is ideal for narrative treatment, and Ekirch treats it rip-snortingly. Until now, few had noticed that the case of Jonathan Robbins might have had profound consequences for early American politics and diplomacy and the larger history of American self-consciousness. . .. And thus, it always is: New minds, new sensibilities, new approaches to the past open up new routes to new understanding. In the line of historians who engage in a never-ending quest for deeper knowledge, Ekirch now takes an honored place.”
- James M. Banner, Jr., Weekly Standard 

“A dramatic tale. . . in the mode of Nathaniel Philbrick’s nautical histories ... Impressive.”          
- Thomas E. Ricks, New York Times Book Review    

“Delves into the far-reaching ramifications of a violent 18th-century mutiny on the HMS Hermione, a British frigate . . . Ekirch builds a strong case that the politics informing the controversy were instrumental in the historical refusals of the U.S. to extradite aliens charged solely with political crimes. Ekirch, a meticulous historian who writes with flair, brings the political theatre of the 1800 election into full view . . . Persuasive . . . A complex and instructive tale.”
- Publishers Weekly (Book of the Week)

“Great new book: American Sanctuary by Roger Ekirch, about the battle that resulted in the US granting asylum to refugees. Very timely!”
- Arianna Huffington, Co-Founder of The Huffington Post      

“Ekirch covers the murderous 1797 mutiny aboard HMS Hermione in all its drunken, gory excess, tracks the worldwide hunt and capture of some of the perpetrators, and then offers a masterful dissection of the political consequences of the Robbins affair . . . The Robbins controversy featured arguments about alien rights, asylum, national identity, and the meaning and scope of American citizenship, all of which persist and all of which Ekirch handles with remarkable dexterity.”
- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Roger Ekirch takes us on an extraordinary journey in American Sanctuary, from one of the most savage and sensational mutinies in the history of the Royal Navy in September 1797 to the hanging of the martyred American sailor Jonathan Robbins—or, British authorities claimed, the mutiny’s Irish ringleader, Thomas Nash—in the summer of 1799.  Ekirch’s gripping narrative brings a largely forgotten episode to life, illuminating its immediate impact on party politics in a polarized, revolutionary age and on the new nation’s enduring identity as an asylum of liberty.  Ekirch’s brilliant reconstruction of Robbins’s career and its aftermath is a triumph of historical research and analysis.  American Sanctuary is one of the most important—and enjoyable—books I have read in many years.”
- Peter S. Onuf, Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus, University of Virginia, co-author of “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”


“Although Roger Ekirch brings to this fascinating account of mutiny, martyrdom, and politics in the early American Republic the imagination and flair of a seasoned novelist, he is actually a superb historian; and the story he tells about America as the asylum for the oppressed of the world two centuries ago is not only true but timely.”
- Gordon S. Wood, Alva O. Way University Professor of History Emeritus, Brown University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Radicalism of the American Revolution, National Humanities Medal

“A dramatic narrative linking the stories of a fierce, bloody mutiny on a British war vessel in 1797 to a legal battle over extradition that rocked John Adams’ administration, shaped the nation’s developing party system, and contributed to Adams’ defeat in the bitter Presidential struggle of 1800 and to the election of Thomas Jefferson.”
- Bernard Bailyn, Adams University Professor Emeritus, Harvard University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution and Voyagers to the West, National Book Award, National Humanities Medal

“Roger Ekirch has done it again—another enthralling narrative that grows more important as the reader reflects upon its meaning.”
- David Hackett Fischer, University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History, Brandeis University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Washington’s Crossing

 “Written in sparkling style with an eye to modern-day political connections and replete with impressive research on both the mutiny and the fractured politics of the US in the 1790s.”      
- Choice

 “Ekirch has done it again . . . another vivid and elegant book. . . . sweeping and eloquent.”  
 - Jon Kukla, Washington Independent Review of Books

“Meticulously researched and elegantly chronicled . . . . This is a dramatic story of the legal evolution and politics of the early 1800s that is well-written and masterfully told with cohesion, insight and skill.
- Louis Arthur Norton, The Northern Mariner

“A consensus holds that last year’s politics were messy; some say the messiest ever, but A. Roger Ekirch tells us otherwise. In 1800 the run-up to the nation’s “first full-blown presidential campaign” was messier, and arguably more important in its long-term consequences. . . . It takes a special gift in writing about the past to offer readers the sense of events unfolding through the deeds, decisions, policies and prejudices of dead white guys, as Mr. Ekirch has done . . . . in bloodcurdling detail and with the snap of tomorrow’s front page. Telling it as a mustard seed story, he shows how this understandable uprising on a foreign ship affected America for two centuries. . . . Mr. Ekirch navigates deep water in enumerating events, detailing arguments and tracing sequelae. . . . Trenchant in its drawn parallels to our day. “ 
- Philip Kopper, Washington Times

“In American Sanctuary, Ekirch chronicles the details of the gruesome 1797 HMS Hermione mutiny and its causes and consequences, particularly as its reverberations came to affect the direction of the nascent American republic. Ekirch, a gifted storyteller, carefully outlines the sequence of these events in an absorbing story of a time when our political party system as well as our national identity was being shaped. The thoroughness of Ekirch’s research, his attention to detail, combined with his considerable narrative skills, make “American Sanctuary” an engrossing, informative and enjoyable read. “ 
- Ben Moise, Charleston Post and Courier

"Fascinating. Ekirch is a marvelous storyteller. Beautifully written and engrossing . . .  An important addition to our understanding of early American history."
- James Roger Sharp,
Professor of History Emeritus, Maxwelll School, Syracuse University,  author of American Politics in the Early Republic
 
"Packed with drama. Ekirch tells this story with rich and powerful prose, demonstrating how this saga of the mutiny on the Hermione helped Americans develop their national identity during the early republic."
- Paul A. Gilje, George Lynn Cross Research Professor, University of Oklahoma,  author of Liberty on the Waterfront

“Everyone’s heard of the mutiny on the Bounty . . .but who’s heard of the mutiny on the HMS Hermione on Sept. 21, 1797? It was a much more potent affair; while the Bounty was essentially a glorified scow, shipping  breadfruit to Tahiti, the Hermione was a 32-gun frigate, an experienced combat ship. , , , And while the Bounty mutiny had little impact, other than the settlement of Pitcairn Island by mutineers and the continuing glory of Hollywood, the Hermione actually made history — perhaps even throwing an American election.That’s the conclusion of Virginia Tech historian A. Roger Ekirch, who tells the Hermione’s story in “American Sanctuary: Mutiny, Martyrdom and National Identity in the Age of Revolution” (Pantheon, $30). . . . Do you think alternative facts and fake news were invented in 2016? In the years 1798-1800, newspapers were shoveling plenty of both. Do you think social media has made our politics nastier? Read some of the insults and calumny piled on Adams and Jefferson. . . .If you like the musical “Hamilton,” here’s a vivid narrative of Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr squaring off as ward heelers in a bare-knuckles, close run New York election.”  
- Ben Steelman, Wilimington Star News, Mar. 28, 2017