HISTG086 The United States and the World, 1776-1900

(!) Not running in 2015-16


The course investigates the history of the United States in global perspective. In doing so, it draws together much exciting and often contentious recent scholarship that interrogates notions of American exceptionalism and imperialism, and offers a history of the United States deeply embedded in transnational and international currents. From a historiographical perspective, the course focuses on the ways in which historians have theorised the United States' relations with other peoples, nations and empires. Though the study of the United States' relations with the wider world comprise the spine of this course, students will be asked to reflect on the limitations of state power and the agency of non-state actors. In addition, a major emphasis is placed on the way in which domestic and foreign concerns cannot be understood without reference to each other. In particular, students are encouraged to think about the ways in which new work in the fields of race, class and gender have complemented or challenged the way we think about the United States in global perspective.

Each week, each text will be assigned to one student, who will be asked to outline its central argument, and to summarise its contribution to the lines of debate that animate the field under consideration. They will also be asked to comment on how convincing they found the text's thesis. The aim of this is not to give a definitive statement on the week's reading, and these presentations will not be formally assessed. However, they are important in opening up the subject for group discussion.

Introductory reading

  • E. Gould and P. Onuf, eds., Empire and nation: The American Revolution in the Atlantic World (2005)
  • Sam Haynes, Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World, 1815-1850 (2010)
  • David Hendrickson, Union, Nation, or Empire: The American Debate over International Relations (2009)
  • Jay Sexton, The Monroe Doctrine: Empire and Nation in Nineteenth Century America (2011)
  • Walter Lafeber, The New Empire: An interpretation of American Expansion, 1860-1898 (1998)