The Significance of the “Global Turn” for the Early American Republic: Globalization in the Age of Nation-Building
Abstract

This piece consists of two major sections that address the question of how historians can incorporate the global approach to analyzing the period in U.S. history from 1776 to 1860. The first part of the essay is theoretical and examines the origins of the “global turn,” its impact on various fields of historical research, and the resistance of historians of the early American republic to the framework. The key point in contention is whether the nation-state is an outmoded construct for organizing historical research or whether it serves a useful purpose. This essay argues that it is possible for the two approaches to be reconciled. The global approach can revitalize and reinvigorate studies of the nation-state, including studies of the early American republic. The second part of the essay provides a concrete example of what a global approach might look like by examining the relationship between British India and the early United States from 1776–1860. The article explores three different areas: the exchange of goods, people, and ideas between British India and the early American republic; missionary activity in India by American women; and a comparison of British and American ideas about race and the treatment of nonwhite peoples under their rule. The article concludes by suggesting that the global approach is particularly useful in linking developments in the early United States with developments in the rest of the world.


pdf