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.
Ariane Leendertz investigates changing perceptions of transatlantic relations in the United States since the late 1960s. Looking into the complex relationships of decision-making at the political level and how they are being informed by changing epistemics, discourses, and perceptions, she concludes that the United States emerged from a moment of crisis (war in Vietnam, increasing economic competition with Europe, and the loss of credibility in Europe) with a growing awareness of global interdependencies. This resulted in a rather pessimistic approach to transatlantic relations that have since the 1970s informed US politics towards Europe.
Giuliana Chamedes identifies two distinct visions that characterized the ideological construct of the ‘Atlantic order’ for the post-war world: a liberal-democratic American and British narrative that helped the United States strengthen its political and economic ties with Europe so as to protect a shared democratic worldview; and another vision, advanced by the Holy See, a handful of European Christian Democratic leaders, and certain key American Catholic opinion-makers, which did not have ‘democracy’ as its endgame. Rather, it proposed to build a peaceful transnational post-war order through the reconstitution of the ‘Christian West’, an early-modern concept of the ‘Old and the New World’ which was defined as an imagined community built on a shared commitment to Christian principles. This move enabled them to embrace the ‘Atlantic Community’, all the while remaining wedded to a conservative, anti-liberal, and anti-communist worldview.
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.