The Center Cannot Hold  
Author Harry Turtledove
Cover artist Big Bot Design
Series Southern Victory
Genre(s) Alternate History
Publisher Del Rey
Publication date June 25, 2002
Preceded by Blood and Iron
Followed by The Victorious Opposition

American Empire: The Center Cannot Hold is the second book in the American Empire trilogy, and is part of the larger Southern Victory series. It starts in 1924, two years after the assassination of Confederate President Wade Hampton V. It shows the prosperity of the 1920s and the decline of the Freedom Party until the Austro-Hungarian bank failure and subsequent Great Depression. As a result of the depression, the ruling Whigs in the Confederate States lose power to the Freedom Party. The book ends on March 4, 1934, with the inauguration of Jake Featherston as President of the Confederate States.


Editorial Note[]

The book's title is derived from the poem "The Second Coming" by Irish poet William Butler Yeats: "Turning and turning in the widening gyre/The falcon cannot hear the falconer;/ Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;/Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,/The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned;/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity."

The poem's dire images are quite fitting with the book's plot, depicting the "blood-dimmed tide" of the relentless rise of a ruthless, genocidal regime in a society where "things fall apart" and "anarchy is loosed upon the world". Throughout the book "The best" indeed "lack all conviction", while "the worst" are indeed "full of passionate intensity".