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A history of smuggling in America

Today America is the world’s leading anti-smuggling crusader. While honorable, that title is also an ironic one when you consider America’s very close history of… smuggling. Our illicit imports have ranged from West Indies molasses and Dutch gunpowder in the 18th century, to British industrial technologies and African slaves in the 19th century, to French condoms and Canadian booze in the early 20th century, to Mexican workers and Colombian cocaine in the modern era. Simply put, America was built by smugglers.

In this video from Brown University’s Watson Institute for International Studies, Peter Andreas, author of Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, explains America’s long relationship with smuggling and illicit trade.


Peter Andreas is a professor in the Department of Political Science and the Watson Institute for International Studies at Brown University. He was previously an Academy Scholar at Harvard University, a Research Fellow at the Brookings Institution, and an SSRC-MacArthur Foundation Fellow on International Peace and Security. Andreas has written numerous books, including Smuggler Nation: How Illicit Trade Made America, published widely in scholarly journals and policy magazines, presented Congressional testimony, written op-eds for major newspapers, and provided frequent media commentary.

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