U.S. Intellectual History Blog

Reading List: Transatlantic History in the Long Nineteenth Century

A few months ago I posted my exam reading list for U.S. Intellectual and Cultural History.

Since then, I have (pretty much) settled my reading list for my second historical field, Transatlantic History in the Long Nineteenth Century.

I am posting that list below, both to provide an example of what a reading list for this sort of field might look like and to provoke some conversation among our readers about what such a list ought to look like.  The subtitles/subject headings in this list are heuristic — just markers I came up with to help me put the books I’m using into very broad and basic categories.  They may not be the most apt way to describe the subject matter that I have grouped together; they are simply a kind of preliminary scaffolding.  Once I’ve read through this list, I will no doubt think of different and probably better ways to group these texts.

In the meantime, I would be glad to hear suggestions about alternate titles I should consider.  However, I can’t let this list go (very far?) over 50 titles.  I have to draw the line somewhere. 

Drawing the line was a real challenge here.  While the boundary lines between fields and disciplines always reflect the ways in which knowledge is constructed, this exam field covers — or at least partially sketches out — a historical subdiscipline that is itself much concerned with redrawing the boundaries of knowledge in such a way as to bring a subject, if not into being, then at least into view.  Both “the Transatlantic” and “the long nineteenth century” cross (some) conventional boundaries of historical specialization.  Holding those two terms in tension, I have worked with my supervising professor for this field to put together a list that makes sense, and that makes sense for me in terms of contributing to the overall coherence of my training as an Americanist and an intellectual and cultural historian.  Moreover, this particular list will provide part of a very solid foundation from which to begin my dissertation.

But first I have to pass these exams.  I’m looking at Fall of 2013 for that.  I’m not looking forward to it.  But when the time comes, I intend to be ready.  Until then, I am still working on settling my final reading list, American Literature from 1789 – ca. 2000.  When I get that all sorted out, I will post it here as well.

So, anyhow, here’s my reading list.


Transatlantic History in the Long Nineteenth Century

theorizing/mapping the Transatlantic

Lucien Febvre, et. al., Le Nouveau Monde et l’Europe (Conference proceedings – Rencontres internationales de Geneve) (1954)
Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness (1993)
Thomas Bender, editor, Rethinking American History in a Global Age (2002)
Alan Taylor, American Colonies: The Settling of North America (2002)
Bernard Bailyn, Atlantic History: Concepts and Contours (2005)
Thomas Bender, A Nation Among Nations: America’s Place in World History (2006)
Jorge Canizares-Esguerra and Erik Seeman, The Atlantic in Global History: 1500-2000 (2006)
Francois Furstenberg, “The Significance of the Trans-Appalachian Frontier in Atlantic History,” The American Historical Review, Vol. 113, No. 3 (June 2008)
Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan, Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal (2008)
Tom Fulford and Kevin Hutchings, eds., Native Americans and Anglo-American Culture, 1750-1850: The Indian Atlantic (2009)
Peter J. Kastor and Francois Weil, eds., Empires of the Imagination: Transatlantic Histories of the Louisiana Purchase (2009)

Forum: Entangled Empires in the Atlantic World (American Historical Review, June 2007)

Epstein, James. “Politics of Colonial Sensation: The Trial of Thomas Picton and the Cause of Louisa Calderon.” The American Historical Review 112, no. 3 (2007): 712-41.
Blaufarb, Rafe. “The Western Question: The Geopolitics of Latin American Independence.” The American Historical Review 112, no. 3 (2007): 742-63.
Gould, Eliga H. “Entangled Histories, Entangled Worlds: The English-Speaking Atlantic as a Spanish Periphery.” The American Historical Review 112, no. 3 (2007): 764-86.
Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge. “Entangled Histories: Borderland Historiographies in New Clothes?” The American Historical Review 112, no. 3 (2007): 787-99.

slavery and abolition

Thomas Bender, ed., The Anti-Slavery Debate: Capitalism and Abolitionism as a Problem in Historical Interpretation (1992)
Peter Linebaugh and Marcus Rediker, The Many-Headed Hydra: Sailors, Slaves, Commoners, and the Hidden History of the Revolutionary Atlantic (2001)
Christopher Leslie Brown, Moral Capital: The Foundations of British Abolitionism (2006)
Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and Their Global Quest for Liberty (2007)
Seymour Drescher, Abolition: A History of Slavery and Antislavery (2009)
Vincent Brown, The Reaper’s Garden: Death and Power in the World of Atlantic Slavery
(2010)

Transatlantic religious/reform movements

Margaret H. McFadden, Golden Cables of Sympathy: The Transatlantic Sources of Nineteenth-Century Feminism (1999)
David Hempton, Methodism: Empire of the Spirit (2005)
Ian Tyrrell, Reforming the World: The Creation of America’s Moral Empire (2010)

rise of nation-states

Ian Tyrrell, “Making Nations/Making States: American Historians in the Context of Empire,”     Journal of American History 86 (3), 1999.
Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (2006)
Oz Frankel, States of Inquiry: Social Investigations and Print Culture in Nineteenth-century Britain and the United States (2006)
Ida Blom, Karen Hagemann, and Catherine Hall, eds., Gendered Nations: Nationalism and Gender Order in the Long Nineteenth Century (2000)

commerce, commodities and cosmopolitanism

Mira Wilkins, The Emergence of Multinational Enterprise: American Business Abroad from the Colonial Era to 1914 (1970)
Sean Wilentz, Chants Democratic: New York and the Rise of the American Working Class, 1788-1850 (1984)
Pierre Bourdieu, Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste (1987)
T.H. Breen, “‘Baubles of Britain’:  The American and Consumer Revolutions of the Eighteenth Century,” Past & Present 19 (May 1988)
Sven Beckert, The Monied Metropolis: New York City and the Consolidation of the American Bourgeoisie, 1850-1896 (2003)
Kristin L. Hoganson, Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity (2007)
Matthew Pratt Guterl, American Mediterranean: Southern Slaveholders in the Age of Emancipation (2008)

America’s emergence as a Transatlantic imperial power

Thomas J. Knock, To End All Wars: Woodrow Wilson and the Quest for a New World Order (1995)
Kristin L. Hoganson, Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (2000)
Mary A. Renda, Taking Haiti: Military Occupation and the Culture of U.S. Imperialism, 1915-1940 (2000)
David Kennedy, Over Here: The First World War and American Society (2004)

Transatlantic cultural / intellectual currents

R.R. Palmer, The Age of Democratic Revolution: A Political History of Europe and America, 1760 – 1800 (1964)
Thomas L. Haskell, The Emergence of Professional Social Science: The American Social Science Association and the Nineteenth-Century Crisis of Authority (1977)
James T. Kloppenberg, Uncertain Victory: Social Democracy and Progressivism in European and American Thought, 1870-1920 (1986)
David Hackett Fischer, Albion’s Seed: Four British Folkways in America (1989)
Walter Nugent, Crossings: The Great Transatlantic Migrations, 1870-1914 (1992)
Gillis Harp, Positivist Republic: Auguste Comte and the Reconstruction of American Liberalism, 1865-1920 (1995)
Kevin Kenny, Making Sense of the Molly Maguires (1998)
Daniel T. Rodgers, Atlantic Crossings: Social Politics in a Progressive Age (1998)
Matthew Frye Jacobson, Whiteness of a Different Color: European Immigrants and the Alchemy of Race (1998)
Leslie Butler, Critical Americans: Victorian Intellectuals and Transatlantic Liberal Reform (2007)
David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (2008)

6 Thoughts on this Post

  1. There does seem to be an overall thematic unity, sometimes looser, sometimess tighter, to the list. At any rate, I wouldn’t have thought to put all these books together this way. I do have a question, though (which I may have asked before): what makes this the “long nineteenth century,” as opposed to simply, “transatlantic history from 1776-1918” or “transatlantic history from the American Revolution to the First World War.” And how will you get out of the trap (some at least see it as a trap), that “Atlantic” or “transatlantic” history (or “British” history in another guise) is simply a fancy new label for the US and Britain? South America to Africa is transatlantic, too, after all.

    I guess basically what I’m asking you to do is defend every key term in your title: “transatlantic,” “long,” and “nineteenth century.” No doubt one of your examiners will do the same. Might as well get started now!

  2. For the section “Rise of Nation States,” I would highly recommend either Timothy Mason Roberts, _Distant Revolutions: 1848 and the Challenge to American Exceptionalism_ (UVA Press, 2009) or Sam W. Haynes, _Unfinished Revolution: The Early American Republic in a British World_ (UVA Press, 2010). Also, consider Bruce Levine’s _The Spirit of 1848: German Immigrants, Labor Conflict, and the Coming of the Civil War_ (U of Illinois Press, 1992); it deals with German immigrants, which might give you some more geographic diversity.

    More generally, my inner social historian (that’s my University of Illinois training at work!) asks why there doesn’t appear to be anything about immigration? Perhaps a few books like Mark Wyman’s _Round-Trip to America: The Immigrants Return to Europe, 1880-1930_ (Cornell UP, 1996) would help you theorize a working-class transatlantic history for the long nineteenth century.

    Like Varad says above, you may need to justify some of your choices–both at the macro level and the micro level. In any case, good luck!

  3. OK, I guess there are a couple of books on immigration, just not necessarily the ones I was expecting to see. My bad. Also, note that Breen modifies some of his 1988 arguments about commercialism and the Revolution in his book, _The Marketplace of Revolution: How Consumer Politics Shaped American Independence_ (Oxford UP, 2004).

  4. Interesting titles. Nice to see Febvre et al. (very first item).
    Could make a few suggestions on the ’emergence of US as transatlantic imperial power’, but won’t since that topic doesn’t seem to be a major focus of the list.
    I think a case could be made for starting off the final section on transatlantic intellectual currents with the last 2 chapters of Pocock’s The Machiavellian Moment, though others may well disagree.

  5. Thanks for all the comments and suggestions. I’ll try to be both thorough and brief in my response. Impossible — kinda like the same way I’m trying to read all the books on my lists. (Learning how to read all over again has to be the hardest part of preparing for exams. I am a cover-to-cover reader by habit and preference, and that ain’t gonna cut it with 250-300 books to read in a year.)

    I should have made clear in my post that most of my thematic subheadings emerged from the list, and not vice versa. The sections on slavery and intellectual history are notable exceptions there. Moreover, almost all of the titles in the first section (“theorizing/mapping”) landed on the list first. If a reading list must replicate the notion of center and periphery, then these three sections are the core of the list.

    The first section is named as it is because that is what those texts do and will help me to do — theorize and map “the transatlantic” as a subject and a “place.” Most of those texts, as well as the slavery section, draw up a world far wider and more complexly interconnected than might be encompassed in a study of “Anglo-American” history. The “trans” in “transatlantic” is important. I am not looking at parallel “Atlantics” — the African Atlantic, the French Atlantic, the Spanish Atlantic, the Anglo-American Atlantic, etc. The AHR forum is a good read in this regard; it’s available free now through JSTOR.

    Just as “the transatlantic” imposes a kind of unity or contiguity of place, so “the long nineteenth century” suggests an era that is “of a piece.” (I suppose I should have given Hobsbawm a berth on the list. He and WA Williams can be my beach reads next summer.) The French Revolution and World War I are the bookends here. And what is between those bookends? Not just a shifting (Western) “world” that emerges from the trade/travel/exchange of nation-states, but a shifting sense of the past and present. It might be amusing and perhaps even useful to periodize our fields that way — “Transatlantic History from Hegel to Nietzsche.” But that would be too much muchness, and not helpful at all in terms of conveying a sense of what this particular Americanist will be prepared to teach.

    And that’s the bottom line: the nomenclature of my fields ought to convey not just what I’ve spent my time reading or thinking about, but what I’m best qualified to teach. Doing a field spanning “the long 19th century” (or any numerical representation of the same) is especially helpful for me as an Americanist, since that would (presumably) signify that I could teach either half of the U.S. history survey. (The chronological range of my other fields helps there as well.) “Transatlantic” isn’t quite as dazzling as “transnational” these days, but it does indicate an interest/ability to situate American history in a broader context. I’m going to let someone else pursue fields with “global” or “world” in the title — my reading lists are long enough already.

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