Several of those who have set out to explain the emergence of AtlanticHistory as a distinct subject of enquiry have begun by seeking to establish when the concept of an Atlantic World first came into vogue. Those who have done so have found that the concept of an Atlantic Community, if not of an Atlantic World, was first popularized in the aftermath of the Second World War by scholars who considered that the liberal-democratic values that had been gradually enshrined into law by governments on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean from the late
The TransAtlantic reconsidered brings together established experts from Atlantic History and Transatlantic Studies – two fields that are closely connected in their historical and disciplinary development as well as with regard to the geographical area of their interest. Questions of methodology and boundaries of periodization tend to separate these research fields. However, in order to understand the Atlantic World and transatlantic relations today, Atlantic History and Transatlantic Studies should be considered together. The scholars represented in this volume have helped to shape, re-shape, and challenge the narrative(s) of the Atlantic World and can thus (re-)evaluate its conceptual basis in view of historiographical developments and contemporary challenges. This volume thus documents and reflects on the changes within Transatlantic Studies during the last decades. New perspectives on research reconceptualize how we think about the Atlantic World. At a time when many political observers perceive a crisis in transatlantic relations, critical evaluation of past narratives and frameworks will provide an academic foundation to move forward.
Susanne Lachenicht: What was AtlanticHistory about when you started the Harvard AtlanticHistory Seminar in 1995?
Bernard Bailyn: A general and at first vague awareness of AtlanticHistory as a distinct subject in itself had emerged after the Second World War from the convergence of developments at two levels, which I have sketched separately in my book AtlanticHistory: Concept and Contours : on the one hand, major developments in geopolitics centred on the Atlantic area, from the wartime Atlantic alliance to the
Susanne Lachenicht, Charlotte A. Lerg, and Michael Kimmage
it in defence against any kind of totalitarianism, directed particularly against communism. 7 This narrative (re-)created, corroborated, and historicized the ‘West’, a concept soon established in intellectual discourse, which has since been modified, mediated, and repeatedly challenged. 8 Yet it remains a powerful trope for political and popular debate.
Out of this historical context and political undercurrent grew a number of related research fields: Transatlantic Relations, European–American Relations, and AtlanticHistory. The heyday of
interaction of people, commodities, microbes, cultural practices, and values across and around the Atlantic basin are now legion. AtlanticHistory runs the gamut from capacious to narrowly defined studies – from those employing broad-gauged transatlantic or circum-Atlantic frameworks to those taking a narrower, cis-Atlantic approach in which one corner of the Atlantic world is probed – but all are premised on the idea that such studies gain heightened meaning by being placed in an appropriately enlarged context. Thinking about a wider Atlantic world, it is assumed, enriches
A programme for the teaching of history in the post- national era
of post-war Poland and Germany and embarked on the search for the historical foundation for Western European and Eastern European integration. The most productive outcome of these historical ruminations was the thesis of the Atlantic Revolution and the concept of AtlanticHistory developed by Jacques Godechot and Robert R. Palmer. 11 ‘In its first, original phase’, Bernard Bailyn wrote,
Atlantichistory in the broadest sense is the story of the creation of a vast new marchland of European civilization, an ill
and David K. van Keuren (eds), The
Machine in Neptune’s Garden: Historical Perspectives on Technology and the
Marine Environment (Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications/
16 Bernard Bailyn, AtlanticHistory: Concept and Contours (Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2005). See also Alison Games, ‘AtlanticHistory:
Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities’, American Historical Review,
111 (2006), 741–57, and Matt K. Matsuda, Pacific Worlds: A History of Seas,
Peoples, and Cultures (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012).
activities of ambitious and speculative
individuals who carved out a new life or career for themselves in the colonies.
The relatively recent innovation that is Atlantichistory, or the history of
the Atlantic world, presents the historian with an alternative way of configuring the history
of Britain’s overseas empire. 11 Peter Marshall’s
observation that the early eighteenth-century empire could mean just as easily ‘power or
dominant interests outside Britain’ as control over territory, hints at the need of a
the histories of most of the geographical regions of the early modern Atlantic world that treat each European state with its nascent empire as a separate entity. The history of commerce is less easily contained within a territory. The concept of ‘circum-Atlantic’ history attempts to escape territorial boundaries; the idea is that the history of the Atlantic is a transnational one that transcends the European nation states and also draws Asian economies into an expanding Atlantic network. 10 The Adventurers for Irish land belonged to this circum-Atlantic world
"On the political passions in Europe and America and their implications for Transatlantic History"
Charles S. Maier
American History. Nonetheless, it still rested on an implicit teleology for a ‘Western’ or AtlanticHistory – liberal and democratic institutions developed together as part of what might be thought of as an irreversible force. The overthrow of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in 1989 reinforced this success story. But historians today need to ask in the light of contemporary ‘populist’ challenges whether these optimistic premises were flawed as the basis of a historiographical programme. And a further question arises: even if we can rescue the transatlantic project