Mind the Global U-Turn: Reorienting Early American History in a Global and Commercial Context
Abstract

ABSTRACT:

This article evaluates the global approach to the early United States and reconsiders the significance of Atlantic history for historians of the Early American Republic. It focuses on the multivalent way that commerce forged cross-cultural relations between the United States and other world regions through commodity chains and trade network, many of which originated long before the independence of the United States. This survey suggests that those who seek to understand the Early Republic in a global context would be best served by a long-nineteenth-century-perspective that looks backward to the eighteenth century rather than forward to the mid- to late-nineteenth century. It calls for historians of the Early American Republic to apply trans-local analysis to reorient the field in new directions and to realize the promise of the global approach. To properly understand the country’s early economy, society, and culture in a global or transnational context, historians of the early United States must adopt multi-lingual and multi-archival research methodologies that account for all sides of cross-cultural exchange. By resisting circular analytical and methodological pathways that start the global approach with the nation-state and end with the nation-state, they might better understand the significance and effects of global entanglements for the Early Republic and other peoples and places outside the United States too. Thereby, they might avoid the global U-turn.