‘History is past politics, politics is present history’
The introduction explains the purpose of the book as an attempt to reassess the works of the Victorian historian Edward Augustus Freeman. It highlights Freeman’s position as a leading scholar and public moralist of the nineteenth century and also considers some of the characteristics of his writing which limited his success. Freeman’s debt to the Liberal Anglican philosopher Thomas Arnold is discussed, as are Freeman’s racial views. There is also a review of recent literature on Freeman.
Chapter 4 considers the first of Freeman’s two neglected volumes on the East, the History and Conquests of the Saracens. Drawing on the theoretical framework of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978) I argue that Freeman consciously represented the East as the inferior and opposite ‘other’ of the West. In so doing, Freeman interlaced both racial ideas about the Orient and an intense form of Islamophobia. For Freeman it was the teachings of the Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad that are the leading cause of what he perceived to be the ‘backwards’ and ‘barbaric’ culture of the Arabic-Islamic world.
Chapter 1 examines Freeman’s magnum-opus, the six-volume History of the Norman Conquest. It begins by situating this work in relationship to traditions of writing about 1066 which had developed between the thirteenth and the nineteenth centuries. Against this background it is argued that Freeman attempted to incorporate several competing interpretations of history into his work – these included the myth of the ‘Norman Yoke’; the ‘Whig’ view of the past; the Liberal Anglican philosophy; and racialised Victorian Romanticism. Assessing the ways in which Freeman’s commitment to these tropes distorted his use of sources and his narrative, I argue that he was not a straightforward panegyrist to English progress, as is commonly assumed.
Nicholas Canny writes on the evolution of Atlantic History from the Cold War era onward. From the 1960s historians such as Jack P. Greene and Edmund S. Morgan challenged Robert Palmer’s Liberal-consensus narrative of the Democratic Revolutions in the Atlantic World. With more research on the Black Atlantic it became clear that the rise of an Atlantic Community had heavily relied on slavery and violence. Economic history further strengthened insights into how the Atlantic empires evolved out of the exploitation of Africans and indigenous peoples in the Americas. Moreover, from the mid-1990s the concept of multiple Atlantics made Atlantic History more transnational in its scope.
Philip D. Morgan shows in his chapter on ‘Atlantic Studies today’ how in recent years, studies on the early-modern Atlantic World have become global and multi-faceted, giving rise to comparative and entangled histories. Atlantic History tackles themes that are prevalent in twenty-first-century history at large: ecology, port towns and cities, multinational and religious societies, networks, scientific revolutions, families, and the individual.
Konrad Jarausch analyses the transatlantic cooperation of historians dealing with National Socialism, the Holocaust, and the Second World War. He examines historiography as well as infrastructure, like the building of new institutions and the founding of periodicals. He also traces the way sources were handled and made accessible, from the collection of data for the Nuremberg Trials to digitization projects of the recent decade. How did this affect the writing of history both in central Europe and in the Anglo-American world? He points out that the historical writing which emerged in this particular framework was at once collaborative, implicitly comparative, and decidedly distinctive.
A programme for the teaching of history in the post- national era
Teaching Transnational History in an environment still formed by a national history agenda poses many challenges, as Thomas Adam contemplates in his chapter. He develops an alternative approach to defining Atlantic History. He explains how we ought to think of the Atlantic no longer merely as a geographical space but conceive of it through the methodological approach of intercultural transfer. According to this premise the Atlantic World becomes ‘a space created through human activity’, namely the transfer, exchange of people and goods as well as the modification, re-interpretation, and sometimes rejections of cultural practices, ideas, and concepts in the process. Transatlantic relations in this context are treated as one example of transnational interaction. This framework not only allows for an interdisciplinary but also an inter-epochal exploration of the field.
The interview discusses the history of the research field ‘Atlantic History’ with one of the leading scholars in Atlantic History, Harvard historian Bernard Bailyn. It looks into the founding of the Harvard Atlantic History Seminar, themes and topics and how the field has evolved since the 1990s.
Susanne Lachenicht, Charlotte A. Lerg, and Michael Kimmage
The introduction assesses the development of the concept of the Atlantic World and its related research fields, Transatlantic Studies and Atlantic History. The chapter opts for a new understanding of Transatlantic Studies and Atlantic History as it has evolved after the end of the Cold War and emphasizes the need for self-reflexivity, transnational, and global perspectives in Transatlantic Studies and Atlantic History alike.
"On the political passions in Europe and America and their implications for Transatlantic History"
Charles S. Maier
Charles Maier’s chapter is a plea for global history. It uses the lens of political passion to present a transatlantic comparison and particularly emphasizes that the Atlantic World has never been as unified as some of the historiographies have us believe. Maier identifies four major fields that have given rise to conflict and political passion: religious authority, self-government, defining the (national) community, and the distribution of wealth and goods. However, as the analysis zooms in on Europe and the United States it becomes evident that these transnational themes may and should also be explored from a global perspective. European history has always had a global dimension, from colonialism to the divisions of the Cold War.