- Atlantic History: Concept and Contours
Postsentimental historians are disaggregating the concept of empire. In early modern history, European states in process of self-formation happened to discover oceanic navigation and set about the colonization of the two American continents. These became part of a Europeanized world known, especially in the first two-thirds of the twentieth century, as "the West." This process, here brilliantly summarized, differed from the "imperialism" of the nineteenth century, when fully formed industrial states acquired global empires that did more to transform their relations than their structures. Exhausted by their wars, some of them have regrouped in a "Europe" that disrupts "the West" by defining itself by defining "America" as its Other. The northern American continent is momentarily involved in informal empire; the southern has pursued a differently ambivalent history. "Atlantic History," not here pursued far into the nineteenth century, remains a great and global early modern subject.
J. G. A. Pocock is Harry C. Black Professor of History Emeritus at Johns Hopkins University and a corresponding member of the British Academy. His books include Virtue, Commerce, and History; The Machiavellian Moment; Politics, Language, and Time; The Ancient Constitution and the Feudal Law; and three volumes of Barbarism and Religion, for which he has received the Barzun Prize in Cultural History and the Lippincott Award of the American Political Science Association.