Atlantic history is a newly and rapidly developing field of historical study. Bringing together elements of early modern European, African, and American history - their common, comparative, and interactive aspects - Atlantic history embraces essentials of Western civilization, from the first contacts of Europe with the Western Hemisphere to the independence movements and the globalizing industrial revolution. In these probing essays, Bernard Bailyn explores the origins of the subject, its rapid development, and its impact on historical study. He first considers Atlantic history as a subject of historical inquiry - how it evolved as a product of both the pressures of post-World War II politics and the internal forces of scholarship itself. He then outlines major themes in the subject over the three centuries after the European discoveries: the barbarism of the early encounters, the integrative forces that drew the Atlantic world together in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, and the enlightened ideas and socio-political changes that lay behind the revolutions that swept the Atlantic world.
The vast contribution of African civilization to all regions of the West, the westward migration of Europeans, pan-Atlantic commerce and its role in developing economies, racial and ethnic relations, the spread of Enlightenment ideas - all are Atlantic phenomena. In examining both the historiographical and historical dimensions of this developing subject, Bailyn illuminates the dynamics of history as a discipline.
Bernard Bailyn is Adams University Professor, Emeritus, and Director of the International Seminar on the History of the Atlantic World at Harvard University. He is the author of numerous books, including The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution (Pulitzer and Bancroft Prizes) and The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson (National Book Award), both published by Harvard.