Sunday, September 2, 2007

How to "Internationalize" Your American Legal History Class: A New Book

The internationalization of American history has been a major theme in U.S. history and American Studies for over a decade. Even though most law schools have taken up the implications of globalization in their curricula, there has been less discussion among American legal historians about how to rethink the nature and subject of American legal history in light of these developments.

For those wanting to internationalize their American legal history courses, but unsure of where to start, a new American history survey can be a starting point. Transnational Nation, United States History in Global Perspective Since 1789 by Ian Tyrrell, just out from Palgrave/Macmillan, is a fairly short (286 pp.), accessible one-volume take on the topic from an Australian historian of U.S. history. Tyrrell of the University of New South Wales participated in a series of discussions among historians around the world, held over a few years, organized by Tom Bender of NYU, and held at La Pietra, outside of Florence, Italy. Out of these conversations came a collection of essays Rethinking American History in a Global Age (Thomas Bender, ed.), and Bender's own book, A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History. The legacy of La Pietra is apparent in Tyrrell's new volume, which is dedicated to "the La Pietra Gang." (I should note that this would include me. I attended the 1998 La Pietra conference, and have participated in follow-up panels at various conferences. I also offered comments on a few chapters of Tyrrell's book manuscript before publication.)

US history is increasingly being studied in a global context, and no study of world history or transnational history can fail to take into account the impact of the US. This essential volume challenges the tendency to see the US as a product of mainly internal political and economic forces which stress American difference from the larger world. Covering the period from 1789 to the time of 9/11 and its aftermath, Ian Tyrrell argues that the shaping of the United States was part of wider economic, social, cultural and political processes, such as:

- political democracy
- reform movements
- economic development
- migration
- the rise of the nation state
- American cultural expansion abroad
- imperialism
- the dramatic impacts of war and revolutions.
Tyrrell explains that the US did not grow in isolation from the forces of globalization and other transnational pressures; rather, the nation has had an uneasy relationship with the rest of the world, in which key movements and institutions promoted globalizing processes while, at the same time, preserving and developing American distinctiveness. Examining the contemporary legacy of these enduring tensions for post-war America, this stimulating study offers readers a fresh, comparative perspective on the relationship between events and movements in the US and wider world.

1. Born in the Struggles of Empires: The American Republic in War and Revolution, 1789-1815
2. Commerce Pervades the World: Economic Connections and Disconnections
3. The Beacon of Improvement: Political and Social Reform
4. People in Motion: Nineteenth-Century Migration Experiences
5. Unwilling Immigrants and Diaspora Dreams
6. Racial and Ethnic Frontiers
7. America's Civil War and Its World Historical Implications
8. How Culture Travelled: Going Abroad, c. 1865-1914
9. Building the Nation-state in the Progressive Era: The Transnational Context
10. The Empire That Did Not Know Its Name
11. The New World Order in the Era of Woodrow Wilson
12. Forces of Integration: War and the Coming of the American Century, 1925-1970
13. Insular Impulses: Limits on International Integration, 1925 to 1970
14. From the 1970s to New Globalization: American Transnational Power and its Limits, 1971-2001
Epilogue: "Nothing Will Ever Be the Same": 9/11 and the Return of History