This article questions the common assumption that nineteenth-century audiences in America and around the world viewed the American western frontier as an exceptional place, like no other place on earth. Through examination of travel writings by Americans and Europeans who placed the West into a broader global context of developing regions and conquered colonies, we see that nineteenth-century audiences were commonly presented with a globally contextualized West. The article also seeks to broaden the emphasis in post-colonial scholarship on travel writers as agents of empire who commodified, exoticized, and objectified the colonized peoples and places they visited, by suggesting that travel writers were also often among the most virulent critics of empire and its consequences for the colonized.

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