Around the world, and also to its residents, the United States can often appear as boringly homogeneous: the homeland and experimen­ tal space of such American icons and instruments of global sameness as Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, and Motel 6. Yet the United States is also a huge country with a wide variety of physical characteristics - from the Great Lakes and the Rocky Mountains to the Mississippi River and the deserts of the Southwest - and with a complex settlement history involving a multitude of ethnic groups from all over the world. The political boundaries that define it have evolved in complex ways down the years as a result of conquest, negotiation, and historical accident, but the moment of its political founding in the 1770s continues to dominate the way its politics and culture are organized even today. For a self-defined “ new nation,” founded from scratch in the throes of rebellion against British colonial rule, American popular culture has remained remarkably attached to a set of ideals about political sover­ eignty, social equality, and national identity which originates in the late eighteenth century. This is in spite of the fact that these ideals have faced enormous pressures from the evolving world economy and from changing expectations within the United States about what they mean. This book is about the interplay between these ideals and the North American setting in which they have played out. What has this got to do with geography?