U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Cementing My Ignorance In Print: An Addendum To My Recent Thinking On Transnational Historiography

Last month I unhesitatingly promoted a review essay of mine at USIH. In that essay, as well as my prior work here on transnationalism (particularly in November 2008 and the January just past), I cited OAH and AHA work on the topic. Sadly, however, I overlooked this Perspectives on History piece from December 2008. But it’s not just the article; it’s the content. So my situation gets worse.

Perspectives detailed the work of a summer institute on transnational topics for college teachers held in 2008. The article also noted that a 2005 institute gathering predated the one last summer. The Perspectives essay publicized, furthermore, a 2008 publication edited by Peter Stearns and Noralee Frankel, titled “Globalizing American History: The AHA Guide to Re-Imagining the U.S. Survey Course.” Through the link you can purchase the 128-page pamphlet for $15. [FYI: Rob Townsend of the AHA informed me that a key part of the pamphlet is at this link.]

Prior to a few weeks ago I was ignorant of the AHA pamphlet, and therefore neglected it in my Councilor review. This is irritating—and humbling. I aimed for comprehensiveness in my write-up, at least from the late 1990s going forward. But somehow I missed a publication from one of the largest historical societies in the United States. Yep. Since the AHA pamphlet addresses teaching, it likely changes my perspective on the place of America on the World Stage (AWS) in the literature on transnationalism.

I haven’t yet seen the AHA publication. But if it incorporates more practical advice on teaching, then it provides a concrete alternative to AWS—an alternative I explicitly called for in The Councilor review. The pamphlet might also indicate a deeper penetration of transnationalism into secondary education than I might have imagined.

The Perspectives article also enlarges the cast of characters cited in my review. I claimed that Thomas Bender was a kind of de facto leader of the transnational turn. He is still clearly important, but now I must recommend that interested parties explore the AHA conferees to sift who played key roles in the two institutes. It appears, on the surface, that Carl Guarneri and John Gillis are more prominent than I realized. This makes sense as Guarneri was mentioned in the endnotes of a few of the AWS essays.

In sum, I’m ashamed. I’ll have to read the AHA pamphlet to discern whether its contents change my interpretation of the transnational turn, my prescriptions for future endeavors, or both. In the meantime, don’t take my word for it. It appears I’ve done what every historian fears: cemented my ignorance in print. – TL

One Thought on this Post

  1. The way you handle this (totally understandable) oversight makes your stock go way up in my book. What a refreshing, George Orwell-like admission and reaction! Well done.


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