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Historians across Borders

Location and American History in a Global Age

Nicolas Barreyre

Publication Year: 2014

In this stimulating and highly original study of the writing of American history, twenty-four scholars from eleven European countries explore the impact of writing history from abroad. Six distinguished scholars from around the world add their commentaries.

Arguing that historical writing is conditioned, crucially, by the place from which it is written, this volume identifies the formative impact of a wide variety of institutional and cultural factors that are commonly overlooked. Examining how American history is written from Europe, the contributors shed light on how history is written in the United States, and, indeed, on the way history is written anywhere. The innovative perspectives included in Historians across Borders are designed to reinvigorate American historiography as the rise of global and transnational history is creating a critical need to understand the impact of place on the writing and teaching of history.

This book is designed for students in historiography, global and transnational history, and related courses in the United States and abroad, for US historians, and for anyone interested in how historians work.

Published by: University of California Press

From the Publisher

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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-viii

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Preface: Location and History

Nicolas Barreyre, Michael Heale, Stephen Tuck, and Cécile Vidal

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pp. ix-xviii

Perhaps the most famous European observer of new worlds—and certainly the most beloved of generations of children—was Lemuel Gulliver, the crotchety old seafarer who returned to England in the early eighteenth century. His fantastical tales of the miniature people of Lilliput...

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pp. xix-xx

Not surprisingly, given the long duration and breadth of this project, there are many people whom the editors would like to thank. Jean-Frédéric Schaub and François Weil helped conceive of the project. Simon Newman, Jörg Nagler, and Manfred Berg gave important...

Part One: Historiography

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1. Watersheds in Time and Place: Writing American History in Europe

Michael Heale, Sylvia Hilton, Halina Parafianowicz, Paul Schor, and Maurizio Vaudagna

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pp. 3-34

Promoting American history in Europe has been a thankless and even dangerous business. Charles Kingsley as regius professor of modern history at Cambridge in 1866 endorsed a proposal that Harvard send someone to lecture on American history every other year, but was...

Part Two: Structures and Context

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2. Using the American Past for the Present: European Historians and the Relevance of Writing American History

Tibor Frank, Martin Klimke, and Stephen Tuck

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pp. 37-55

That writing about the past is interwoven with the demands of the present is something of a truism. But how each historian seeks to make, or not make, the connection, and how, in turn, this affects her or his research interests and writing style clearly varies—and seemingly marks...

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3. Institutions, Careers, and the Many Paths of U.S. History in Europe

Max Edling, Vincent Michelot, Joånrg Nagler, Sandra Scanlon, and Irmina Wawrzyczek

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pp. 56-74

Do institutions shape historical scholarship? Insofar as there are collective trends in the history scholars write, to what extent do the institutional settings they work in influence their path? When we talk about historiography, we generally approach historical work as an individual...

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4. Straddling Intellectual Worlds: Positionality and the Writing of American History

Nicolas Barreyre, Manfred Berg, and Simon Middleton

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pp. 75-92

“It takes a foreigner to clear the air of cant,” Jackson Lears wrote in his review of Amanda Foreman’s book on the American Civil War. Adopting the British perspective, Lears argued, Foreman captures the full complexity of the war, moving beyond the limitations of nationalist narratives of...

Part Three: Internationalization(s) of U.S. History

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5. Writing American History from Europe: The Elusive Substance of the Comparative Approach

Susanna Delfino and Marcus Gräser

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pp. 95-117

During the past twenty-odd years, the growing popularity of Atlantic, transnational, and global history, together with other perspectives in historical writing such as histoire croisée and entangled history, seemed to herald the demise of what had come to be seen as a rather limiting...

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6. American Foreign Relations in European Perspectives: Geopolitics and the Writing of History

Hans Krabbendam, Pauline Peretz, Mario del Pero, and Helle Porsdam

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pp. 118-140

Although the United States and Europe have no common borders, they have always shared a sense of historical proximity—which has been “translated,” at one point or another, into wars and alliances, migrations, intellectual exchanges, and trade. Yet more and more...

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7. Location and the Conceptualization of Historical Frameworks: Early American History and Its Multiple Reconfigurations in the United States and in Europe

Trevor Burnard and Cécile Vidal

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pp. 141-162

The complex phenomena of globalization that the world has been experiencing have encouraged historians in the past twenty years to address and to problematize the issue of spatial scale. A genuine spatial turn is appearing among historians with a new interest in space and territory...

Part Four: Perspectives from Elsewhere

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8. Positionality, Ambidexterity, and Global Frames

Thomas Bender

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pp. 165-173

Beyond reframing American history, the La Pietra project (1997– 2000) for internationalizing its practice included an aspiration to advance the role of scholars working outside the United States.1 Whether or not the La Pietra meetings had much to do with it, transnational and global framings of American history have fl ourished...

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9. Reflections from Russia

Ivan Kurilla

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pp. 174-180

Russia occupies an unusual position with respect to the European historiography of the United States. First, put bluntly, there is the question of whether it belongs to Europe as Europe is usually understood. Russia is an Asian country as well as a European one, belonging, for...

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10. Doing U.S. History in Australia: A Comparative Perspective

Ian Tyrrell

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pp. 181-188

The chapters in this volume show the richness, complexity, and depth of European historiography on the United States and demonstrate in subtle ways how location and perspective still matter in the interpretation of U.S. history. The context of researching in Australia is vastly...

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11. Viewing American History from Japan: The Potential of Comparison

Natsuki Aruga

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pp. 189-197

As a Japanese historian of the United States, I have an abiding preoccupation: what meaning does my work have in mainstream historiography, predominantly written by U.S. historians? This book directly confronts this concern and leads me to the conclusion that foreign scholars...

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12. Not Quite at Home: Writing American History in Denmark

David E. Nye

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pp. 198-205

Scandinavian historians were seldom much concerned with the United States before World War II, and in Denmark only a few scattered courses were first offered in the 1930s.1 The field developed slowly after 1945, stimulated by the Fulbright Program.2 No American historians lived...

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13. American History in the Shadow of Empire: A Plea for Marginality

François Furstenberg

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pp. 206-214

The international expansion of U.S. history in the past two decades presents both opportunities and risks to American historians outside the United States. Enormous credit goes to those who have led the charge, including Thomas Bender, David Thelen, Ian Tyrrell, and Bernard Bailyn...


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pp. 215-290

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 291-294

List of Contributors

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pp. 295-298


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pp. 299-308

E-ISBN-13: 9780520958050
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520279278

Page Count: 343
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • United States -- Historiography.
  • Historiography -- Europe.
  • United States -- History -- Study and teaching -- Europe.
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