In rethinking and reframing the American national narrative in a wider context, the contributors to this volume ask questions about both nationalism and the discipline of history itself. The essays offer fresh ways of thinking about the traditional themes and periods of American history. By locating the study of American history in a transnational context, they examine the history of nation-making and the relation of the United States to other nations and to transnational developments. What is now called globalization is here placed in a historical context. A cast of distinguished historians from the United States and abroad examines the historiographical implications of such a reframing and offers alternative interpretations of large questions of American history ranging from the era of European contact to democracy and reform, from environmental and economic development and migration experiences to issues of nationalism and identity.
But the largest issue explored is basic to all histories: How does one understand, teach, and write a national history even as one recognizes that the territorial boundaries do not fully contain that history and that within that bounded territory the society is highly differentiated, marked by multiple solidarities and identities? Rethinking American History in a Global Age advances an emerging but important conversation marked by divergent voices, many of which are represented here. The various essays explore big concepts and offer historical narratives that enrich the content and context of American history. The aim is to provide a history that more accurately reflects the dimensions of American experience and better connects the past with contemporary concerns for American identity, structures of power, and world presence.
Thomas Bender is University Professor of the Humanities and Professor of History at New York University. He is the author of Intellect and Public Life: Essays on the Social History of Academic Intellectuals in the United States (1993), New York Intellect: A History of Intellectual Life in New York City, from 1750 to the Beginnings of Our Own Time (1988), and Community and Social Change in America (1978) and the editor of The Antislavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation (California, 1992).
Preface Introduction. Historians, the Nation, and the Plenitude of Narratives Thomas Bender Part I. Historicizing the Nation Part II. New Historical Geographies and Temporalities Part III. Opening the Frame Part IV. The Constraints of Practice Appendix. Participants in the La Pietra Conferences, 1997--2000 Contributors Index