Internationalizing the United States Survey Course: American History for a Global Age

THE LA PIETRA REPORT OF 2000, issued jointly by New York University and the Organization of American Historians (OAH), makes an eloquent appeal for a more internationalized American history. In annual conferences held over a four-year period, more than seventy-five participants reached agreement that historians must “produce a much more nuanced understanding of the place of the United States in the world in all periods in its history,” and they should guide students to “look … beyond the official borders of the U.S. and back again.”[2] Publicized widely among American historians, this document is spurring discussion at professional conventions, on history websites, and in department meetings on the topic of how United States history might be rethought—and retaught—in a more global context.

Actually, the La Pietra Report crystallizes a movement that has been forming for more than two decades. Calls to internationalize American history have appeared with growing frequency since Laurence Veysey’s and Walter Hugins’s seminal articles in the 1970s on global convergence and American national difference.[3] Reminders that the United States developed as part of the world rather than separate from it have emanated from conferences on introductory courses and shaped the presidential addresses of major historical associations.[4] In the 1990s the OAH and the American Studies Association undertook major initiatives to internationalize the study of America’s past, including foreign-language book and article prizes, increased coverage of foreign scholarship on the United States, a newsletter series on the state of American history abroad, and special theme issues of their journals.[5] The La Pietra project was intended to provide conceptual underpinning for such initiatives and to chart future directions for scholarship and teaching. Its impact has been enhanced by endorsements from prominent historians and especially by events in the world outside the academy. The terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 and the issues they raised have added urgent journalistic voices to the chorus of professional ones asking Americanists to abandon isolationist narratives and stretch the boundaries of United States history.[6]

Taken together, these appeals and initiatives make a compelling case for enlarging the frameworks that historians use to study and teach United States history. They stress the need to test traditional ideas of American uniqueness and isolation by examining cross-national comparisons and connections. They emphasize that wider geographic and temporal contexts are required to trace the roots of globalization and to understand the trajectory of the United States’ rise to global influence. The growing presence of the United States on the international scene, they argue, makes it crucial to study images and opinions of America held by those beyond its borders as well as the considerable impact of American economic and cultural power upon lives around the world. At the same time, looking at the United States from outside it, they assert, will help us to understand ideas, movements, economies, and environments larger than the nation that helped to shape it and those that influence it today, such as transnational migrations, religious fundamentalisms, and multinational corporations. Admittedly, attitudes toward national identity vary among internationalizing advocates. Some simply acknowledge the rise of transnational identities based on race, gender, or religion, while others applaud them or seek to inculcate a sense of “global citizenship” to supplement or perhaps contest the national version. In any case, all agree that Americans are enmeshed in a world larger than their nation—indeed they always have been—and that students need a history that will help them learn how this interconnectedness came to happen and how they might act effectively within it.

These are powerful arguments, and they are being heard. There has been an unmistakably more cosmopolitan approach to American history among scholars of the past two decades. Starting with comparative studies of frontiers, slavery, and race, historians of the United States have expanded their reach across borders and oceans to examine international patterns of migration, working-class formation, evangelicalism, women’s activism, and state development. Transnational work in such areas as biological exchange, staple-crop trade, and environmental change is steadily gaining momentum, while borderlands studies are booming.[7] In my view, the key questions concern not whether internationalization will happen—it is already transforming historical scholarship—but how it will proceed and how it should affect history teaching.

This essay is about the second question, more specifically that mainstay of the American history curriculum, the undergraduate survey course. What will happen to the United States survey course as American history moves toward internationalization? Is it a relic of nation-based historiography that should be discarded as historians distance themselves from the task of transmitting national myths and forming national citizens? If, however, it will continue to be with us, how should the course change to reflect a more global conception of American history? Proponents of internationalization themselves disagree about the future of the United States survey: some want to retain it while others propose to abolish it and absorb its American component into global or world history. The La Pietra Report, consistent with its careful balancing of national and transnational perspectives, suggests that the introductory survey is “properly a focal point” for creating an internationalized American history, and then provides brief suggestions for reforming or reframing it.[8]

The views I present in this essay are premised on the assumption that the United States survey will, for the foreseeable future, remain a key feature of undergraduate history in the United States. Considering the many ways that the teaching of American history is embedded in political, professional, and institutional contexts that change very gradually, this seems a realistic assumption. And keeping in mind the enormously important role the American nation continues to play in students’ lives and identities—and in world affairs—retaining the survey has a strong educational rationale as well. It seems certains, then, that the United States survey course will continue to exist, yet it won’t be unchanged. As new scholarship that pursues American history across national boundaries inspires college teachers, influences graduate training, and finds its way into survey textbooks, the introductory course will reflect changes to traditional frameworks in United States history. This trend may be accelerated by the growing number of graduate students who prepare a field in global or comparative history and by the many teachers who teach both world history and American history. To some degree, internationalized surveys will also emerge in response to the increased diversity of American college students and to the special situation faced by those who teach Uniteed States history abroad.

Changes that begin to globalize United States history are already being introduced by individual teachers and departments, but without much publicity and coordination.[9] For their part, proponents of internationalization have offered more exhortation than curricular strategies and examples. The main intent of my essay is to provide an overview of various models and approaches for internationalizing the survey, in hopes of encouraging interested teachers and inspiring new course paradigms. A secondary aim is to address a few of the objections and obstacles that may impede this work; or, put more positively, to suggest some disciplinary connections and curricular materials that can support it.

Internationalizing Trends in the Survey Course

How will an internationalized U.S history survey look? Although it will continue to provide a factual foundation for further study of the United States, the new introductory course will also emphasize international connections, comparisons, and interpretive frameworks. Before discussing specific course models, I want to point out some general changes that internationalization may bring to the survey. Two of these—the search for new starting points and an increased attention to foreign affairs—are already well already underway and can be reviewed quickly. The other four changes are less apparent and more prospective but are potentially more revolutionary; they will require greater elaboration.

Where does American history begin? For decades the conventional starting points have been Virginia, Massachusetts Bay, and the British North American colonies, but recent United States history textbooks have gone back further in time and expanded their geographic reach. In tune with this trend, many survey-course teachers now take time to examine the Spanish, Portuguese, French, and Dutch empires in the New World. Some start even earlier, examining the roots of European expansion before the 1400s and the social and religious legacy of the Medieval world. Just as the latest world history textbooks have pushed back the origins of the modern world economy to the intercontinental trade routes and migrations of the period between 1000 and 1300, so too some historians report beginning their American history surveys with the rise of Eurasian trade and the spread of Islam, connecting the Silk Road to the Middle Passage.[10]

Nor is Eurasia the only site for this deeper history. When the National Standards for United States History (1994) labeled the period before 1620 an era when “three worlds meet,” they encouraged teachers to increase their coverage of the pre-Contact history of Africa and the Americas. Most textbooks now examine North American geography and portray Native American cultures, empires and trade networks that thrived long before Europeans arrived. They also describe powerful West African kingdoms that were transformed by contacts with Arab and European traders.[11] Recast as places where Europeans, Africans, and Native Americans converged, the American colonies that became the United States are now interpreted as bequeathing a complex, fascinating, and often troubled legacy of cultural collision, domination, and mixture to the new nation. This trend of widening our horizons and moving further back in time suggests that a more global approach offers multiple places and starting points for the narratives that create American history. Today’s teachers are selecting their own emphases or even problematizing United States history by engaging students with the question of when and where it should begin.

Today’s survey courses also feature greater consideration of America’s role in world affairs. Highlighting American political, diplomatic or military activities abroad is the most common way for teachers to inject international themes or events into survey syllabi. Concern with foreign affairs has long been a staple of survey textbooks, and although the rise of social history in the 1970s and 1980s cut into its allotted pages, especially for the nineteenth century, international relations now loom more prominently than ever in twentieth-century narratives. Two world wars, the long Cold War, the subsequent position of the United States as the world’s sole superpower, and current controversies over globalization have moved the international context of recent American history into the foreground. Especially in response to the September 11 attacks and the American intervention in Afghanistan, many teachers have highlighted past events which may be analogous to the contemporary situation: Jefferson’s war on the Barbary pirates, United States interventions in Mexico and Central America, or the Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor.[12]

These two ongoing trends—toward new starting points and greater coverage of foreign affairs—reflect what I have elsewhere called the “genetic” and “foreign-relations” models of internationalization.[13] In most cases they involve the early and late stages of American history and do little to change the middle. The United States survey commonly opens with the genetic approach and ends with the foreign-relations paradigm. Beginning with a wide-angle, Atlantic, or hemispheric view of contact and colonialism, the course narrows to a resolutely national approach after the American Revolution. Most textbooks and syllabi then concentrate almost exclusively on domestic affairs until the Spanish-American War of 1898, which is viewed as opening the era of formal imperialism and international involvement.

If the United States survey course is to be thoroughly internationalized this conventional hourglass-shaped coverage will have to go. The fact is, as the National Standards for World History note, that between 1750 and 1914 “the history of the United States…was not self-contained but fully embedded in the context of global change.”[14] To do justice to this connectedness will require sustained attention to events and trends outside the nation, continuous engagement with the ways that American political, social, and economic developments have been involved in world patterns and events. This is the first, and the most fundamental, of the genuinely new changes I foresee for the survey course.

From early on, events elsewhere have directed our national life. As Paul Gagnon has written, “the American history course should make it plain that the bell tolled for us when the Portuguese began African slave-trading in 1444, when the French invaded Saigon in 1859, when the Japanese humiliated Czar Nicholas in 1905, [and] when Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in 1914.”[15] Conversely, from the “Columbian Exchange” onward, North American organisms, products, and political ideas have initiated important transformations around the world.[16] Simultaneous with these two-way global connections, and partly because of them, in the Americas, South Africa, and Australia there arose parallel developments that provide fruitful opportunities for cross-national comparisons. The trajectory of the United States as a European “settler society” that imported African slaves, subjugated natives, expanded along frontiers, established representative government, received immigrants, industrialized and eventually built a welfare state, suggests that the American experience is comparable to that of many other nations that were founded in the wake of European expansion.

As these broad parallels and examples of mutual influence imply, studies of the international contexts of national history tend to fall into two groups, one emphasizing episodes of connection and impact and the other examining questions of similarity and difference. It may be that in the early stages of globalizing, United States survey courses will replicate the dichotomy that world historians formed between “comparativists” and “interactionists,” those who compare major nations, civilizations or institutions, and those who emphasize exchanges, conquests, and migrations as the key determinants of historical change.[17] But just as world history textbooks seem to be converging toward a mixed approach, United States history textbooks and teachers will probably adopt an eclectic form of internationalization. Teachers may experiment with many models, but they will probably come to realize, as scholars have discovered, that the richest versions of international history incorporate both transnational narratives and comparative analyses.[18]

A second new development I foresee is the effect that attention to larger contexts may have on the way teachers periodize United States history. Linking familiar American events and movements to counterparts elsewhere complicates old chronologies and may inspire new ones. A few examples suggest some of the possibilities. As colonial American history widens beyond the British thirteen colonies into the charting of a slave-based Atlantic economy, the phases of that economic system stretch into the nineteenth century and encompass the American Revolution rather than culminate in it.[19] The fact that the American Revolution itself was connected to contemporary uprisings in the Atlantic world suggests that the “Age of Revolution” continued in the United States at least into the Jacksonian era of the 1830s, perhaps (thanks to the Seneca Falls Convention) to 1848, as it did in Europe.[20] A more global perspective may indicate that two-semester survey courses should be split at points other than the ubiquitous 1877. What about 1815, when Napoleon’s defeat, the end of the War of 1812, and the Pax Britannica finally assured the survival of the young United States? Or the 1890s, when the post-Civil War race question was finally settled, the frontier was officially closed, and the United States began its imperial phase, all of which can be seen as related developments? For the twentieth century, doesn’t a transAtlantic view demonstrate that Progressivism and the New Deal ought to be discussed together as the American variant of the rising Western “welfare state”?[21]

Daniel Rodgers, developing his affirmative response to this last question, has proposed that an internationalized American history be divided into five broad stages. European exploration opened an “age of outpost settlements” coexisting precariously with native societies. Then, stretching from the last quarter of the seventeenth century to the last quarter of the eighteenth, an “age of commercial Atlantic empires” tied these American settlements to European capitals, the slave coast of Africa, and the West Indian colonies in dense networks of trade. The third great phase, sparked by the American and French Revolutions and continuing beyond the American Civil War, was an “age of revolutionary nation-building.” By the late nineteenth century, problems of industrialization, immigration, and urbanization challenged nations to develop the political means to curb the excesses of capitalism; thus began an “age of social politics” that encompassed American Progressivism and the New Deal and lasted into the 1940s. The most recent phase, the “age of the world hegemony of the United States,” extends from World War II and the Cold War to our own time.[22]

Rodgers’s internationalized schema challenges survey teachers to think in longer time spans and to cluster topics, such as the Revolution and the Civil War, that often get separated by intervening events or themes. Its “big picture” approach encourages discussion of international connections and comparisons without sacrificing the stability of a clear chronological scaffolding and without creating competing or overlapping timetables.

A more radical approach would be to highlight the varying chronologies that social and economic history introduce into historical study by adopting a heavily thematic approach: deperiodizing rather than reperiodizing American history. Since demographic trends, economic systems, and cultural norms change at a slower pace than political developments and have different turning points, textbooks and teachers must confront the problem of juxtaposing political events and underlying structures, the short and the long durée. Most United States history textbook writers have adjusted by organizing thematic chapters with somewhat parallel chronologies, often alternating between chapters with political narratives and those featuring social/economic description.

Internationalization promises to accelerate this trend, perhaps dramatically. One current world history textbook, The Global Past, divides the period between 1500 and 1900 in the Western Hemisphere into nine thematic chapters, most spanning two or more centuries: “Oceanic Explorations and Contacts, 1405–1780,” “Early European Colonialism, c.1500–c.1750,” “The American Exchange, 1492–c.1750,” “The African Slave Trade, 1441–1815,” “Revolutions in Europe, the Americas, and Asia, 1543–1895,” “The Global Industrial Revolution, c. 1770–1905,” “Modern Nationalism around the Globe, 1816–1920,” “Imperialism around the Globe, 1803–1949,” and “Darwin, Marx, and Others Transform Our Views, 1837 Onward.”[23] If American history is reorganized to address such world history topics, we can expect to see much longer, chronologically overlapping thematic units that combine the segments on colonialism, trade, slavery, revolution, nation-building, industrialization, and foreign relations that are currently scattered through several short-term chapters in conventional textbooks. Of course, teachers adopting such a strongly thematic approach must be willing to sacrifice clear decade-by-decade chronology for more intensive study of key developments and the interpretive challenge of connecting the parallel timelines of economy, society, and politics.

A third change that will probably accompany internationalization is a new, more detached stance toward the nation. It’s no secret that American history as practiced and taught has been largely wedded to the project of building and preserving the nation.[24] Conventional textbooks are often framed as epics in which the nation is formed and tested: Making a Nation, The American Journey, The Enduring Vision. Such books, and the courses in which they are assigned, tend to assume that the national is the normative scale of the story and the nation-state is its most important protagonist. Often, too, like much of the scholarship from which they derive, such textbooks imply that the American national experience is unique—even exceptional—without subjecting such claims to careful scrutiny.

Internationalized formulations of the survey will challenge these practices. Some will start with traditional questions about national identity and development, such as what it means to be an American or what was unique about American history. But by contextualizing the United States and comparing it with other nations, they will aim to produce nuanced comparisons that break away from stereotyped dichotomies between “us” and “them,” America and the rest of the world.[25] The new survey will interrogate American “exceptionalism” in its various guises, from specific claims about the importance of the frontier or the absence of socialism to the more general notion that American history has been exempt from trends and problems seen elsewhere in the world.[26] One aim of comparative analysis will be to develop a more sophisticated sense of the weave of differences and similarities that constitutes a nation’s distinctiveness. Another will be to illuminate how American history has been enmeshed in networks and forces larger than the nation. As the United States takes its place among a broad spectrum of nations, the tendency will be to move “from exceptionalism to variability,” to see American events as variations on global developments, and to focus as much, or nearly as much, attention on such processes and movements as on the national story.[27]

As for nation-building, it seems clear that most internationalized surveys will still include the establishment and consolidation of American political institutions and a careful consideration of the nation’s founding documents—these subjects remain critical for students and citizens to understand. But in line with recent scholarship they will stress what the La Pietra Report calls the “historicity of nation-making.”[28] This includes the sense that the United States is not a natural unit but a human creation, the study of it as an ongoing rather than a finished experiment, and the definition of it as an “imagined community” whose terms and boundaries have shifted over time.[29]

One way to impart this sense of constructedness would be to examine perennial tensions between “civic” and “ethnic” versions of American nationhood. Throughout their history Americans have argued over whether their national identity involves allegiance to a set of rules and principles that are public and colorblind, or whether “true Americans” are those who derive from white European ancestry. Placed in a global context, this tension is the American variant of the struggle between racial/ethnic inclusion and exclusion that has shaped many countries.[30] Another way to contextualize nationalism might be to examine other forms of belonging, such as allegiances to family, region, religion, race, or gender. Thus students will come to appreciate the multiple identities and solidarities, some smaller than nation, others larger, that coexist with national identity, sometimes harmoniously but sometimes in competition or conflict. Ideally, by incorporating these diverse perspectives into its readings and discussions, the new survey will demonstrate some of the connections between domestic “multiculturalism” and global diversity.[31]

One obvious link is immigration. Studying the complex play of national and transnational identities created by migration, whether voluntary or forced, is a powerful way the survey can construct a middle position between the traditional view of the nation as subject and a global view of it as a site for larger processes that are themselves the object of inquiry. No doubt there will be many others suggested by the dialogue between American history and an emphasis on particular transnational political, social, economic, or environmental themes. One can even imagine a future in which more aggressively globalized United States survey courses present the nation much more as a site than a subject, located near the midpoint between local, regional, continental, and global processes, not always the relevant unit of inquiry and only occasionally decisive as an historical intervener. Courses that center around such transnational processes as environmental change, oceanic trade, migration, and industrialization may well feature multiple focal points and several scales of historical analysis, from the local to the global.[32]

This last point is important enough to isolate as the fourth and final change on my list: a reminder that internationalized survey courses of all types will find ways to link microhistory and macrohistory, processes larger than the nation and those smaller. Just as the United States was never really separate from the world, its individuals, groups, and local communities have been enmeshed in networks of trade, migration, and culture that cross borders continually. In this age of instant communication, jet travel, global sweatshops, and “thinking globally and acting locally,” the notion of interconnectedness is less abstract and foreign to American students than ever. To examine these connections in vivid and meaningful ways, an internationalized survey will trace local developments to regional, national, and transnational contexts and vice versa.[33] It will keep up a running dialogue between the ethnic and economic history of specific towns or regions and larger patterns emerging from studies of trade, industrialization, migration, and environmental change. Some survey teachers are already experimenting with a “sister cities” approach that demonstrates connections between American and overseas communities, such as the ties among Fort Ross, California, Sitka, Alaska, and St. Petersburg, Russia in the early nineteenth century.[34] Recent books on Jews in New York and Paris, Italians in New York and Buenos Aires, and older works on Africans in Latin America and the United States, suggest that a comparative approach can be as effective as an interactionist one in connecting local with international history.[35]

Surely one benefit of stressing this micro-macro connection is to avoid the trap, familiar to world historians, of burying individuals and small groups in the discussion of large, impersonal structures or forces in history. Teachers who regularly use student autobiographies or family histories to illuminate larger historical processes have attempted to solve this problem, and no doubt future survey courses will do something similar. Through comparative biographies or representative transnational lives of indigenous peoples, colonists, migrants, slaves, sailors, missionaries, traders, reformers, entrepreneurs, political leaders and other figures powerful and small, an internationalized survey can depict people who crossed borders and transformed history. Incorporating the stories of such lives into survey courses will engage students concretely in the historical drama at the same time it raises their awareness of the many places that have informed Americans’ lives and identities.

“Systemic” Models of Internationalization

How will these changes, and others that I have not foreseen, translate into new survey syllabi and course designs? Turning to this more practical concern, it may be useful to distinguish between “systemic” and “episodic” strategies for internationalizing the survey course. The former undertake a more radical or whole-cloth restructuring, the latter a more reformist or piecemeal approach that involves less drastic and uniform redesign of the course but allows for greater flexibility along the way.

Systemic approaches seek to incorporate internationalization into the overall structure of the course by using a particular theme or theory as an organizing principle. This could be done in many ways, five of which I will highlight here. One might be to reframe the course into a larger ecological or geographic unit. A survey built around North American history, as the geographer D. W. Meinig recommends, could incorporate comparisons, contacts, borderland migrations and mixings, as well as United States interventions and influences in Canada and Mexico.[36] Casting a wider hemispheric net, an introductory course centered on the Americas could pursue a similar strategy for the entire New World. Drawing upon scholarship that stems from Herbert Eugene Bolton’s theory that North and South America share a common history, such a course could trace parallel developments in the colonial, independence, and national periods as well as analyze borderland and foreign-relations issues.[37] Alternatively, some survey courses may choose the Atlantic Basin as their primary geographic context. Because scholars of early American history have largely reframed the colonial era and American slavery as episodes in Atlantic history, there are excellent syntheses as well as case studies for teachers to draw upon.[38] For the period after 1800 there are fewer overviews due to the “hourglass effect” referred to above, but a growing monographic literature on migration, industrialization, race, class, reform, and international relations in the Atlantic Basin provides insights and readings to learn from.[39] Peering out from the other side of the continent, a Pacific Rim approach might be used to contrast or complement the Atlantic focus with its own discussion of colonialism, trade, migration, labor systems, and foreign relations. In each of these cases survey instructors would use wider geographic contexts as settings and reference points as they proceeded through major events and developments in United States history.

A second approach, a variant of this geographic opening up of the survey, might be to use a limited number of non-United States societies as comparative focal points, thus incorporating a sustained binational dialogue or multinational conversation through the semester. George Fredrickson’s masterly two-volume comparative study of the United States and South Africa, still the most fully-developed binational history involving the United States, provides a model and—for students up to its challenge—a text.[40] The medieval historian Marc Bloch once noted that the most illuminating comparisons are those between societies with common influences and substantial basic similarities.[41] Keeping this in mind as well as the terrain of existing comparative studies, three such reference groups seem most appropriate for comparing with the path of American history: 1) other European “white settler societies” in Latin America, Canada, Australia, and South Africa that confronted aboriginal groups and moved from colonial status to independent nationhood; 2) western European nations that forged transatlantic connections with the United States and underwent similar political, social, and industrial trends; and 3) the new political and industrial world powers of the twentieth century, Japan and Russia. There are others. The early national history of the United States, for example, suggests striking parallels with the strife-torn and dependent situation of developing nations in Asia and Africa.[42] For instructors who seek to localize such transnational comparisons, thereby linking macro- and microhistory, a survey course focusing on the United States’ northern or southwestern borderlands, or the comparative cities approach mentioned above, might be attractive strategies.[43]

A third and quite different systemic strategy is to choose a facet of United States history that is inherently international and make it the main theme or special angle of the course. A course-long emphasis on foreign relations, war, migration, religion, trade, technology, or biological exchange would ensure that United States history could be studied from a sustained interactionist viewpoint that stresses America’s participation in, rather than isolation from, the movement of peoples, goods, and ideas throughout the world.

A special emphasis upon international relations, for example, could bring foreign affairs more consistently into the survey course, especially for the often-overlooked nineteenth century. Survey teachers could situate westward expansion in a global arena by portraying such episodes as the fur trade, the Lewis and Clark expedition, the Louisiana Purchase, the Mexican War, and the Gold Rush as international phenomena. Drawing upon scholarship that explores United States international involvements bilaterally or even multilaterally, they could ensure that students interpret topics such as the American Revolution, the Mexican War, or the American occupation of Japan from the perspective of the various participants, not just American policymakers.[44] Examination of the ways that domestic and foreign policy have interacted can shed new light on how racial and gender thinking fostered imperialism, how labor movements influenced immigration policy, or how the Cold War gave a boost to the Civil Rights movement.[45] After the mid-nineteenth century the expanding reach of American power overseas can be demonstrated through such episodes as Commodore Perry’s mission to Japan, Anglo-American relations during the Civil War, or the colonization of Hawaii, challenging the persisting myth of American isolationism.[46] And consideration of the impact of America’s power abroad in the twentieth century will raise important questions about the nature of hegemony, empire, and globalization.[47]

In recent years foreign-relations historians have broadened their subject from a narrowly focused “diplomatic history” toward what Akira Iriye calls “transnational affairs,” the wide spectrum of contacts between individuals and groups across national borders. Incorporating this development into the survey course entails not simply giving greater coverage to treaties and wars, but also charting international trade, technology exchange, migration, missionary activity, travel literature, or reform organizing. Like intergovernmental contacts, economic and cultural exports can be analyzed from the receiving end as well, inquiring, for example, how American sewing machines changed industry around the world or how Europeans have interpreted American movies.[48]

The issue of how outsiders see the United States, important during the nation’s fragile early years, becomes equally significant during its rise to global power, as the tragic events of September 11, 2001 have reminded us. For all kinds of internationalized survey courses, whether focused on international relations or not, foreign views can provide an informative alternative to American perspectives. Those United States, a recently published survey-course reader, is an intriguing collection of such commentary on a wide range of topics. Those who view the United States from the outside can reveal patterns and assumptions hidden to insiders, highlight worldwide interest or indifference toward the American experiment, illuminate the motives of overseas migrants and governments, and document the effects of United States foreign policy abroad.[49]

Another intrinsically international subject is trade. World historians have shown the enormous impact of cross-cultural exchange in altering daily life as well as long-term patterns related to population and the global distribution of power. Rather than simply an add-on feature of American history, following the trail of commodity production and exchange could become a central strategy, providing a lens through which to view United States history transnationally. Beginning with the epochal exchanges following the Columbian encounter, for example, a survey course could trace the political struggles and social changes of early American history through the development of an international trade in animal products, sugar, tobacco, cod, cotton and wheat. From there the focus could shift to industrial production in the nineteenth century or else continue with an emphasis on food: the impact of new processes of packing, canning, and freezing; immigrant food-ways and their influence on American diet; the use of immigrant labor in American agriculture; how American consumption patterns helped alter land use patterns at home and abroad; and the development and export of fast food. The theme of foodstuffs connects directly with issues related to the frontier and the environment, transportation and labor systems, the national and world economy, and foreign policy—all inherently transnational subjects. And the history of commodities offers a particularly rich model for suggesting the multiple sites and scales involved in internationalizing United States history. Mark Kurlansky’s Cod, for example, artfully links the fishing industry to local life in New England, Canada and Iceland as well as to the larger story of regional economies and international rivalries. Mark Prendergrast’s For God, Country and Coca-Cola follows that pervasive soft drink’s influence from local gas station dispensing machines to policymakers’ desks at the State Department, and eventually around the globe.[50]

The same points about scale and connection apply to such survey themes as migration or race. Indeed, because they are intended as general conceptual tools, sociological categories such as migration systems, slavery, race, class, or gender deliberately slice across national boundaries. A focus on one or more of these sociological constructs—a fourth systemic strategy—can invite transnational comparisons and connections throughout the course. Running a thread on race through the survey, for example, would mean incorporating far more than slavery, the slave trade, and emancipation. It also involves introducing related comparative and international topics, such as the history of racial ideas and categories, attitudes and practices regarding racial mixture, racial claims and barriers to citizenship, theories of “split labor” and “internal colonialism,” links between racism and imperialism, and the history of civil rights agitation, Pan-Africanism, and other black liberation movements.[51] As students recognize, with W.E.B. DuBois, that American racism is “but a local phase of a world problem,” they will begin to appreciate the varied ways that racial categorizing has framed struggles over group identity and freedom around the globe.[52]

Finally, perhaps the most encompassing of all the systemic approaches to internationalization are those that integrate United States history with various stage theories or conceptual schemas employed by world historians or historical sociologists. A survey course designed with these in mind might ask students to situate American developments in such transnational interpretive constructs as Marxist theory, state-development schemas, world-systems analysis, long-wave economic cycles, and other social-science models, or it might examine such meta-themes as the rise of modernity or the course of civilizations.

This is not the place for an extended discussion of such theories and their application to United States history. However, world-systems analysis deserves additional comment because it has been so influential among world historians and is increasingly being adopted by Americanists. Introduced by Immanuel Wallerstein in the 1970s, this theory traces the development of an integrated world economy since the fifteenth century, an economy which was dominated by the rich and powerful “core” nations of western Europe and which gradually brought distant regions on its “periphery” into dependence upon its capitalist market.[53] Broadly applied to America, a world-systems approach begins with North America as an outpost on the world periphery increasingly enmeshed in the web of colonization, mercantilism, and the slave trade. After independence, the United States embarks upon a course followed by other “semi-peripheral” states as it consolidates national institutions, develops export production, industrializes, urbanizes, and exerts control over its own regional hinterland. Finally, after World War I the United States emerges as the prime inheritor of the European economic might and a global power in its own right. A United States survey course based on this world-systems scaffolding would systematically trace the United States’ path from the periphery to the core of the world system, or, as world historian Michael Adas puts it, “from settler colony to global hegemon.”[54]

A chronology that charts America’s initially small world-significance over four centuries provides a necessary corrective to John Winthrop’s endlessly repeated claim that from the outset the “eyes of all people” were trained on New England’s “city upon the hill.” But as the La Pietra Report acknowledges, using the survey course to trace the America’s “rise to globalism” also runs the risk of “produc[ing] a form of historiographic imperialism or an ideological justification for…American hegemony.” Historians and other critics of Francis Fukuyama’s “end of history” thesis have warned against creating a triumphalist global narrative of United States history that feeds the dubious notion that world history has culminated in the collapse of communism and the victory of democratic, capitalist institutions.[55] Such a celebratory narrative simply flips the coin of American “exceptionalism.” As Adas reminds us, while one face of exceptionalism has traditionally separated the United States from all other societies, the other has presented America as the world’s “last, best hope” and promoted its global civilizing mission.[56]

It is conceivable that an internationalized survey course might simply globalize traditional American claims to moral leadership or universal principles. But the United States’ growing international sway is open to many interpretations, critical as well as approving. Survey students could be encouraged to examine the notion of the United States as an imperial power, whether in the traditional sense of ancient Rome or nineteenth-century Great Britain or in some new way. By sorting out concepts such as “imperialism,” “globalization,” “westernization,” and “Americanization,” they can aim to grasp more fully the scope and limits of American power in a world in which, on the one hand, the United States is the sole remaining superpower, and on the other, its influence is constrained by competing national and transnational organizations.[57] Just as the history of empires shows that they rise and fall, the only accurate stage theories show that history does not end, but that societies and economies continue to evolve into new relationships. Analyzing these changing relations is properly the aim of an internationalized survey course, which sets out neither to praise or criticize the United States but to understand its place in the world.

“Episodic” Approaches

Whether organized by world-systems theory, large geographic units, comparative analysis, or some other principle that I have not envisioned here, systemic approaches incorporate cross-cultural study into the very fiber of the survey course. At a time when traditional national narratives are being questioned, they can provide coherent alternative frameworks, or at least unifying thematic currents, that move American history outward toward the wider world. Despite this appeal, it is certain that many historians would resist forcing the survey course into these kinds of organizing frameworks. Some may believe that systemic internationalization will relegate United States history to the background too frequently; others that it will multiply the workload by requiring instructors and students to master world or other national histories in addition to that of the United States. Schemas derived from world history may also conflict with institutional requirements for the United States survey, which tend to emphasize events rather than structures, domestic rather than international developments. Many American public universities face requirements to cover constitutional topics, and some states have set guidelines for history instruction or teacher preparation that may discourage global approaches.

Internationalization raises its own concerns about constraining teachers’ choices. An overarching schema may encourage survey instructors to impose one rigid “master narrative” on a course in which they prefer competing views, or it may compel them to omit material they consider essential because it does not fit into the course’s trajectory. Further, some historians fear that these larger frameworks would inhibit Americanists from engaging in important mid-level interpretive controversies about specific events and movements: debates over the Constitution, options inside the Gilded Age labor movement, or attitudes toward the New Deal. While “the big picture” may be necessary for world historians, Americanists enjoy the relative luxury of teaching a mere 400 years of history, often over two semesters, and many want to use their time to explore events in depth as well as in their broad contexts.

There are good answers to these objections, and I anticipate that as internationalization proceeds it will spur lively debates over survey-course designs. Leaving such arguments and counter-arguments aside, however, for teachers who resist the systemic, whole-cloth approach there remain many possibilities for engaging an internationalized United States history more episodically. This would mean linking one-at-a-time or opportunistically the events and developments discussed in the survey course to a larger frame of description and analysis. The introductory survey course would still cover traditional topics, but students could be encouraged to situate many of them internationally by seeking their larger contexts and meanings.

America Compared, the collection of survey-course readings I developed in the mid-1990s, is based on this eclectic, episodic approach.[58] I organized it by subjecting traditional survey events to what I called the “three c’s”: searching for transnational connections, framing appropriate cross-cultural comparisons, and testing against social-science concepts such as racism or revolution. Participants at the La Pietra conferences added a fourth “c” to the list—seeking larger contexts—an umbrella term that reminds us that history is distinctively a contextualizing discipline.[59] With eclectic approaches such as the “four c’s,” the goal is to model different paths to a more broadly-framed United States history and to instill internationalization as a habit of mind rather than to present a new master narrative or unified interpretation of American history.

Episodic strategies of internationalizing United States history give survey instructors greater flexibility than committing themselves to a single transnational theme or theory. Teachers can choose the most appropriate of the “four c’s” for the topic at hand. For example, they could interpret immigration as an episode in a long history of continental and transoceanic connections, present industrialization as an internationally comparative process, analyze American slavery as a site of both connection and comparison, or measure the American Revolution against various conceptual models of the nature and dynamic of revolutions. Instructors could select the most revealing supranational context for each topic without pre-committing themselves to a particular comparison group or geographic frame. They could choose to work “inside out” or “outside in”; that is, to enlarge local or regional histories toward international contexts or to announce global themes whose ramifications can then be traced in local arenas.[60] Such an approach permits the Great Depression, to take one example, to be taught simultaneously as a local catastrophe, a national problem, and a world economic and political crisis with a much longer background than 1929 and with comparable effects from nation to nation.

Episodic internationalization takes advantage of the generally eclectic nature of the survey course. It enables the instructor to include world-history relevance as one of several criteria used to select course topics. It also allows certain components or “voices” in the course such as lectures, readings, visual sources, or discussions to address broad international themes while others present a more traditional, intensive look. Readings might be used to widen the perspective of lectures or vice versa. Brief segments of class time could be set aside regularly to consider internationalizing themes such as “views from abroad” or “transnational lives.” Teachers could draw upon the experience of students who have come from or have lived outside the United States to confirm or contest course generalizations or to suggest new connections and comparisons. The possibilities are virtually endless. Because the United States survey is taught in many different places, to diverse students, and with varied pedagogical formats, there are countless ways to embed a conversation among local, national, and international history in its day-to-day operations.

Links to Diaspora Studies, Women’s History, and World History

Whether an internationalized United States history is presented in systemic or episodic form, instructors in the new survey course will engage students with an exciting but also potentially confusing history. They will give alternating or even simultaneous attention to different geographic scales, social realms, and chronologies. They will examine the coexistence (and sometimes conflict) of local, national, and transnational identities, even within the same group. In this respect it would make sense to learn from historians who have blazed similar trails. Scholars studying “diasporas,” a term formerly used to describe the global scattering of Jews and Africans but now increasingly applied to Asians and other transnational migrants, can suggest ways to understand the play of multiple identities and the tensions of dual allegiances.[61] As early as 1903, W.E.B. DuBois pointed out the “double-consciousness” of being both black and American; his insight can help us to remap American history by following the international agendas as well as the national struggles of American minorities.[62] Women’s history may also provide models to build upon. In the United States, it was among the first “new” histories to challenge political, event-oriented history and conventional periodization as well as to trace transnational social movements. The field’s most popular reader, Women’s America, juxtaposes the different timescales of biology, economics, family history, and politics.[63] Historians setting out to internationalize their United States surveys would do well to inquire about useful approaches and techniques that can be learned from our colleagues teaching introductory courses in African American, diaspora, and women’s history.

As I have implied throughout this article, the experience of teaching world history is even more directly relevant. World historians have struggled with the problem of integrating different geographies, cultures, and timetables into a coherent course framework. They have debated the strengths and weaknesses of “comparativist” versus “interactionist” models for teaching global history. And they have discussed the role that United States history should have in the world history survey, just as Americanists have begun discussing what place “the world” should have in theirs.[64] This essay has suggested ways in which world history has already influenced how introductory United States history is being taught. What else might American historians learn from world historians? The American history section of the 1996 National Standards virtually ignored transnational themes, but the standards for world history prescribed that United States and world history be “interrelated in content and similar in format.”[65] To what extent should the world and United States survey courses be synchronized with a like periodization or tied by common approaches and themes? Addressing this question could help to build bridges between Americanists and world historians, connections that might break down the rigid compartmentalization of history curricula into American history and “other” courses. This separation reinforces nationalist biases in our teaching and shortchanges students who seek to understand the world around them in all its complexity and connectedness. As the La Pietra Report suggests, a sustained dialogue with world history has the potential to prod teachers not simply to revitalize the United States survey course but to reimagine the undergraduate history curriculum more generally.[66]

Challenges and Opportunities

Teachers setting out to internationalize their United States history survey—and to convince others to do so—should expect to encounter difficulties, even if they choose modest “episodic” strategies. One common problem is the teacher’s own specialized graduate training or unfamiliarity with histories beyond American borders. While teachers cannot expect themselves to be experts in all areas, there is no avoiding the fact that internationalizing United States history will require additional preparation, often in unfamiliar fields. Then, too, survey students may well lack a basic knowledge of world history. This can be addressed in various ways: mini-lectures for background and chronology, guest presentations or team teaching, appointment of “area experts” among class members, or the use of library reference assignments. Such methods can help students achieve a meaningful entrée into transnational topics without making them feel lost or encouraging them to descend into vague generalities or national stereotypes.

Right now there is a shortage of suitably internationalized American history textbooks. New editions of existing texts have increased their pre-Columbian era and foreign-affairs coverage, and their advertisements claim that they place “United States History in a Global Context.”[67] More thoroughly internationalized textbooks are currently in preparation. David J. Russo’s American History From a Global Perspective is a thematic overview rather than a conventional textbook, but it could be used effectively as a survey text.[68] As for collections of readings, besides America Compared and Those United States, which I described earlier, some teachers have developed their own course-packs based on readings from American Heritage or History Today as well as selected book chapters and documents. As internationalization proceeds, it will produce more popular syntheses and essays that could be adopted or excerpted for survey-course students. To be sure, new course supplements will still have to compete against traditional readers using dated interpretive frameworks, some of which remain in demand after more than thirty years.

In this respect, the project of internationalizing the survey course faces the same obstacles that any revamping of the survey runs up against: institutional or faculty resistance, professional reward structures that ignore innovation in teaching surveys, and heavy teaching loads and diverse assignments. Institutional initiatives aimed at internationalizing the survey course, whether they come from professional associations or the colleges themselves, will have to address this complex of resistance, overwork, and lack of incentive in addition to issues of content and pedagogy.

Still, there are encouraging trends underway that will support internationalization. Graduate history training is becoming more comparative and transnational in content; many advanced students now prepare a field in world history and are expected to teach it when hired. The growing cohort of young historians who teach both the United States survey and a world history course may provide a critical mass for curricular cross-fertilization and the development of new textbooks. The diversity of United States college students, and particularly the increasing number of those who study United States history in foreign universities—an important development that is beyond the scope of this essay—augment the usefulness of transnational and comparative approaches and may suggest new ways to undertake them. In short, in addition to trends in historiography, the demographics of history students and faculty may well be on the side of internationalization.

Having taught a modestly internationalized survey course for seven years, I can attest that its educational benefits far outweigh its logistical difficulties or concerns about preparation or coverage. My students note that transnational and comparative approaches help them relate the United States to the rest of the world and to assess more carefully its distinctive qualities. They are quick to suggest connections between their world history and American history knowledge, and they appreciate the challenge of acquiring a global perspective on such topics as racial inequality, religious conflict, and American popular culture. Many, whose horizons seemed to shrink as they encountered American history over their school years in ever more specialized segments, report renewed excitement when confronted with an enlarged version of our history. I have found that embedding international themes in the introductory course is not just a workable strategy but a revitalizing one.

If internationalization is to take root in the history curriculum, as the La Pietra Report advocates, the United States survey course is an essential ground in which to plant the seeds. For many college students such surveys are all the American history they are going to get. For others who continue their studies, cosmopolitan habits of mind should be encouraged from the outset. Rather than waiting for students to reach upper-division or graduate work before they confront an enlarged conception of the American past, we should seize the opportunity to introduce internationalizing themes sooner. Rather than waiting for scholarship to trickle down, internationalized introductory courses can create a demand for creative textbooks and course materials. To do so will require rethinking the survey course in imaginative ways as well as overcoming a certain amount of professorial and institutional resistance. Internationalizing American history will take some effort, but it promises to bring fresh ideas and broader vistas to a traditionally insular subject that needs more than ever to connect with the wider world.


1. An early draft of this essay was prepared as a working paper for the fourth La Pietra conference on Internationalizing American History, Florence, Italy, July 6–8, 2000. This version benefits from discussions of the La Pietra participants, particularly Thomas Osborne and Ian Tyrrell; contributions by various historians to the “History Matters” Forum on “United States History in Global Perspective,” November 2001, moderated by Thomas Bender; and comments by an outside reader for History Teacher as well as my History department colleagues at Saint Mary’s College of California.

2. Organization of American Historians and New York University, La Pietra Report: Project on Internationalizing the Study of American History (New York, n.p., 2000), 7–8. Thomas Bender of NYU, who wrote the Project’s final report, is also the editor of a volume of essays from the La Pietra conferences: Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002).

3. Laurence Veysey, “The Autonomy of American History Reconsidered,” American Quarterly 31 (2 Fall 1979): 455–77; Walter Hugins, “American History in Comparative Perspective,” Journal of American Studies 11 (April 1977): 27–44.

4. See, for example, Warren I. Susman, “Annapolis Conference on the Introductory Course,” AHA Perspectives 20 (November 1982): 19; Peter N. Stearns, “United States History Must Be Taught as Part of a Much Broader Historical Panorama,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, January 3, 1990, p. A44; Carl N. Degler, “In Pursuit of an American History,” American Historical Review[AHR] 92 (February 1987): 1–12. See also Janice Radway, “What’s in a Name? Presidential Address to the American Studies Association, 20 November 1998,” American Quarterly 51 (March 1999): 1–32, esp. 18–23.

5. “Toward the Internationalization of American History: A Round Table,” Journal of American History [JAH] 79 (September 1992): 432–542; Michael Cowan, Eric Sandeen, and Emory Elliot, “The Internationalization of American Studies,” ASA Newsletter 17 (December 1994): 12–14. Additional “internationalization” issues of the JAH appeared in March, September, and December 1999.

6. See, among many such journalistic exhortations, Frank Viviano, “The High Price of Disengagement,” San Francisco Chronicle, September 13, 2001, p. A13; and Michael Bérubé, “Ignorance is a Luxury We Cannot Afford,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, October 5, 2001, pp. B5–6. For post-La Pietra endorsements of its project, see Eric Foner, “Presidential Address: American Freedom in a Global Age,” AHR 106 (February 2001):1–16, esp. 3–4; and Linda K. Kerber, “Portraying an ‘Unexceptional’ American History,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, July 5, 2002, p. B14.

7. For reviews of some of these studies, see Peter Kolchin, “Comparing American History,” Reviews in American History 10 (December 1982): 64–81; George M. Frederickson, “From Exceptionalism to Variability: Recent Developments in Cross-National Comparative History,” JAH 82 (September 1995): 587–604; and David Thelen, “Of Audiences, Borderlands, and Comparisons: Toward the Internationalization of American History,” JAH 79 (September 1992): 432–51.

8. La Pietra Report, 12.

9. For one project, see Robert Cassanello and Daniel S. Murphree, “Implementing the La Pietra Report: Globalizing United States History Instruction in Birmingham, Alabama,” OAH Newsletter 29 (November 2001): 5.

10. David Snyder, Texas A&M; University, contribution to the “History Matters” E-list Forum on “United States History in Global Perspective,” November 5, 2001. See

11. National Center for History in the Schools, National Standards for United States History: Exploring the American Experience (Los Angeles: UCLA, 1994), 39. For representative textbook coverage of the pre-Contact era, see David Goldfield and others, The American Journey: A History of the United States, 2nd ed. (Saddle River, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 2001), Ch. 1.

12. See Nathan Williams, “How Did the United States Defeat the Barbary Pirates?” History News Network (, September 26, 2001, which provoked a two-month-long discussion on H-Net; Donald R. Shaffer, “The Grueling Campaign to Capture Pancho Villa,” History News Network, September 25, 2001; and many newspaper and magazine articles comparing the September 11 attacks to Pearl Harbor, including Greg Ryan, “It’s the Same, but Not,” New York Times, December 2, 2001, Week in Review section, p.5.

13. Carl J. Guarneri, “Out of Its Shell: Internationalizing the Teaching of United States History,” AHA Perspectives 35 (February 1997): 1, 5–8.

14. National Center for History in the Schools, National Standards for World History: Exploring Paths to the Present (Los Angeles: UCLA, 1994), 203.

15. Paul Gagnon, “Why Study History?” The Atlantic Monthly, November 1988, p.46.

16. Alfred W. Crosby, The Columbian Exchange: Biological and Cultural Consequences of 1492 (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood, 1972).

17. Jerry H. Bentley, “The Quest for World-Class Standards in World History,” The History Teacher 28 (May 1995): 450–51.

18. See Carl Guarneri, “Reflections on Comparative and Transnational Histories,” paper presented at the Second La Pietra Conference on Internationalizing American History, Florence, Italy, July 5–8, 1998.

19. Nicholas Canny, “Writing Atlantic History; or, Reconfiguring the History of Colonial British America,” JAH 86 (December 1999): 1093–1114.

20. This is the view of E.J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848 (New York: New American Library, 1962), 139–40.

21 Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998).

22. Daniel T. Rodgers, “An Age of Social Politics,” in Bender, ed., Rethinking American History in a Global Age, 250–52.

23. Lanny B. Fields, Russell J. Barber, and Cheryl A. Riggs, The Global Past (Boston: Bedford Books, 1998).

24. Joyce Appleby, Lynn Hunt, and Margaret C. Jacob, Telling the Truth About History (New York: W.W. Norton, 1995), 91–125; David Thelen, “Making History and Making the United States,” Journal of American Studies 32 (December 1998): 373–97.

25. Degler, “In Pursuit of an American History,” 3–4.

26. See Daniel T. Rodgers, “Exceptionalism,” in Anthony Molho and Gordon S. Wood, eds., Imagined Histories: American Historians Interpret the Past (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 21–40; and, for a bibliographic survey, Michael Kammen, “The Problem of American Exceptionalism: A Reconsideration,” American Quarterly 45 (1993): 1–43.

27. Frederickson, “From Exceptionalism to Variability.”

28. La Pietra Report, 10.

29. Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, rev. ed. (London: Verso, 1991). Two excellent collections of essays on the social and cultural “construction” of the nation are Eric Hobsbawm and Terence Ranger, eds., The Invention of Tradition (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983); and Geoff Eley and Ronald Grigor Suny, eds., Becoming National: A Reader (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), esp. Pt. II.

30. David A. Hollinger, Postethnic America (New York: Basic Books, 1995), 14–15, 131–163; Liah Greenfeld, Nationalism: Five Roads to Modernity (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1992). For an account of twentieth-century America that hinges on the shifting relations between civic and racial nationhood, see Gary Gerstle, American Crucible: Race and Nation in the Twentieth Century (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001).

31. La Pietra Report, 6.

32. This is somewhat akin to the “international history” envisioned by Ian Tyrrell in “American Exceptionalism in an Age of International History,” AHR 96 (October 1991): 1031–55. For the multiple scales and sites of environmental history and migration studies, respectively, see Richard White, “The Nationalization of Nature,” JAH 86 (December 1999): 976–86; and Donna R. Gabaccia, “Is Everywhere Nowhere? Nomads, Nations, and the Immigrant Paradigm,” ibid., 1115–34.

33. La Pietra Report, 5.

34. Thomas Osborne, Santa Ana College, contribution to “History Matters” E-list Forum on “United States History in Global Perspective,” November 6, 2001.

35. Nancy L. Green, Ready-to-Wear and Ready-to-Work: A Century of Industry and Immigrants in Paris and New York (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1997); Samuel L. Baily, Immigrants in the Lands of Promise: Italians in Buenos Aires and New York City, 1870 to 1914 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1999); Herbert S. Klein, Slavery in the Americas: A Comparative Study of Virginia and Cuba (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1967).

36. See Donald W. Meinig, “Continental America, 1800–1915: The View of an Historical Geographer,” The History Teacher 22 (February 1989): 189–203. For a similar approach to current history, see Anthony DePalma, Here: A Biography of the New American Continent (New York: Public Affairs, 2001).

37. Lewis Hanke, ed., Do the Americas Have a Common History? A Critique of the Bolton Theory (New York: Knopf, 1964) reprints important contributions to this debate, including Bolton’s seminal essay, “The Epic of Greater America” (1933). For a recent example of the benefits of a hemispheric approach, see Lester D. Langley, The Americas in the Age of Revolution, 1750–1850 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996).

38. As representative titles, see D.W. Meinig, Atlantic America, 1492–1800, Volume 1 of The Shaping of America: A Geographical Perspective on 500 Years of History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986); Peggy Liss, Atlantic Empires: The Network of Trade and Revolution, 1713–1826 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1983); Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden, eds., Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987); Ira Berlin, Many Thousands Gone: The First Two Centuries of Slavery in North America (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998); and Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: The Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (Boston: Beacon Press, 2000).

39. As examples in each of these areas, see Walter Nugent, Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870–1914 (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1992); Colleen Dunlavy, Politics and Industrialization: Early Railroads in the United States and Prussia (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1994); R.J.M. Blackett, Building an Antislavery Wall: Black Americans in the Atlantic Abolitionist Movement, 1830–1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983); Jeffrey Haydu, Between Craft and Class: Skilled Workers and Factory Politics in the United States and Britain, 1890–1922 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1988); Bonnie S. Anderson, Joyous Greetings: The First International Women’s Movement, 1830–1860 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000); Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings; and Penny M. Von Eschen, Race Against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937–1957 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997).

40. George M. Fredrickson, White Supremacy: A Comparative Study in American and South African History (New York: Oxford University Press, 1981), and Black Liberation: A Comparative History of Black Ideologies in the United States and South Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995).

41. Alette Olin Hill and Boyd H. Hill, Jr., “Marc Bloch and Comparative History,” AHR 85 (December 1980): 830.

42. Seymour Martin Lipset, The First New Nation: The United States in Historical and Comparative Perspective, rev. ed. (New York: W.W. Norton, 1979), Part I; Fredrickson, White Supremacy, Ch. IV.

43. Various borderlands topics and typologies are suggested in Meinig, “Continental America”; Jeremy Adelman and Stephen Aron, “From Borderlands to Borders: Empires, Nation-States, and the Peoples in Between in North American History,” AHR 104 (June 1999): 814–41; and the special issue of the JAH on Mexico and the United States, September 1999. For a localized United States-Canada comparison, see Norbert MacDonald, Distant Neighbors: A Comparative History of Seattle and Vancouver (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1987).

44. Christopher Hibbert, Redcoats and Rebels: The American Revolution through British Eyes (New York: W.W. Norton, 1990); Cecil Robinson, ed. and trans., The View From Chapultepec: Mexican Writers on the Mexican-American War (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1989); John W. Dower, Embracing Defeat: Japan in the Wake of World War II (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999).

45. Matthew Frye Jacobson, Barbarian Virtues: The United States Encounters Foreign Peoples at Home and Abroad, 1876–1917 (New York: Hill and Wang, 2000); Kristen Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998); Alexander Saxton, The Indispensable Enemy: Labor and the Anti-Chinese Movement in California (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971); Mary L. Dudziak, Cold War Civil Rights: Race and the Image of American Democracy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2000).

46. Peter Booth Wiley, Yankees in the Land of the Gods (New York: Viking, 1990); Howard Jones, Union in Peril: The Crisis Over British Intervention in the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1993); Merze Tate, The United States and the Hawaiian Kingdom (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1965).

47. See, as representative titles, Akira Iriye, The Globalizing of America, 1913–1945, vol. 3 of The Cambridge History of American Foreign Relations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993); Paul Kennedy, The Rise and Fall of the Great Powers: Economic Change and Military Conflict from 1500 to 2000 (New York: Random House, 1987); Thomas Friedman, The Lexus and the Olive Tree: Understanding Globalization (New York: Farrar, Straus, Giroux, 1999); Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2000); and Walter LaFeber, Michael Jordan and the New Global Capitalism (New York: W.W. Norton, 1999).

48. Akira Iriye, “Internationalizing International History,” in Bender, ed., Rethinking American History in a Global Age, 51; Emily S. Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890–1945 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982); Robert Bruce Davies, Peacefully Working to Conquer the World: Singer Machines in Foreign Markets, 1854–1920 (New York: Arno Press, 1976); Richard Pells, Not Like Us: How Europeans Have Loved, Hated, and Transformed American Culture Since World War II (New York: Basic Books, 1997).

49. Gerald Michael Greenfield and John D. Buenker, eds., Those United States: International Perspectives on American History, 2 vols. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2000). For a useful sourcebook of foreign journalism, see Ralph E. Weber, ed., As Others See Us: American History in the Foreign Press (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1972).

50. Mark Kurlansky, Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World (New York: Walker & Co., 1997); Mark Prendergast, For God, Country and Coca-Cola, 2nd ed. (New York: Basic Books, 2000).

51. The classic essays on “split labor” and “internal colonialism,” Edna Bonacich’s “A Theory of Ethnic Antagonism: The Split Labor Market” (1972), and Robert Blauner’s “Colonized and Immigrant Minorities” (1972), are reprinted in Ronald Takaki, ed., From Different Shores: Perspectives on Race and Ethnicity in America, 2nd ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1994), 139–60.

52. Robin D.G. Kelley, “‘But a Local Phase of a World Problem’: Black History’s Global Vision,” JAH 86 (December 1999): 1045–77. For a succinct transnational and comparative history of racism, see George M. Fredrickson, Racism: A Short History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2002).

53. Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, 3 vols. (New York: Academic Press, 1974–89). Key excerpts have been reprinted in The Essential Wallerstein (New York: New Press, 2000). For a useful comparison of world-system and modernization theories, see Craig A. Lockard, “Global History, Modernization, and the World-System Approach,” The History Teacher 14 (August 1981): 496–515.

54. Michael Adas, “From Settler Colony to Global Hegemon: Integrating the Exceptionalist Narrative of the American Experience into World History,” AHR 106 (December 2001): 1692–1720.

55. La Pietra Report, 7. See Francis Fukuyama, The End of History and the Last Man (New York: Free Press, 1992); and Timothy Burns, ed., After History? Francis Fukuyama and His Critics (Lanham, Md.: Rowman and Littlefield, 1994).

56. Adas, “From Settler Colony to Global Hegemon,” 1692–98. For a recent popular history that weaves both versions of exceptionalism into a narrative triumphantly predicting “yet another American century,” see David Fromkin, The Way of the World: From the Dawn of Civilizations to the Eve of the Twenty-First Century (New York: Knopf, 1998).

57. John Tomlinson has provided two helpful conceptual guides: Cultural Imperialism: A Critical Introduction (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), and Globalization and Culture (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999). See also the sources cited in note 47.

58. Carl J. Guarneri, ed., America Compared: American History in International Perspective, 2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997).

59. Thomas Bender, Report on La Pietra Conference II (July 1998), OAH website [].

60. Robert Gregg, Inside Out, Outside In: Essays in Comparative History (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1999).

61. See Robin Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1997); and Colin Palmer, “Defining and Studying the Modern African Diaspora,” AHA Perspectives 36 (September 1998): 1, 22–25.

62. W.E.B. DuBois, The Souls of Black Folk (1903; reprint ed. Boston: Bedford Books, 1997), 156; Robin D.G. Kelley, “How the West Was One: The African Diaspora and the Remapping of United States History,” in Bender, ed., Rethinking American History in a Global Age, 123–147. See also Paul Gilroy, Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1993).

63. Linda Kerber and Jane S. DeHart, eds., Women’s America: Refocusing the Past, 5th ed. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999).

64. See, among many contributions, Jerry H. Bentley, “Cross-Cultural Interacion and Periodization in World History,” AHR 101 (June 1996): 749–56; Philip D. Curtin, “The Comparative World History Approach,” The History Teacher 18 (August 1985): 520–27; and Peter N. Stearns, “Teaching the United States in World History,” AHA Perspectives 27 (April 1989): 12–16.

65. National Center for History in the Schools, National Standards for History (Los Angeles: UCLA, 1996), 44.

66. Stearns, “Teaching the United States in World History,” 12; La Pietra Report, 11–12.

67. James A. Henretta and others, America’s History, 4th ed. (Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2000).

68. David J. Russo, American History From a Global Perspective: An Interpretation (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2000).