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Atlantic History

Atlantic History

Concept and Contours

Bernard Bailyn

ISBN 9780674016880

Publication date: 03/31/2005

Atlantic history is a newly and rapidly developing field of historical study. Bringing together elements of early modern European, African, and American history--their common, comparative, and interactive aspects--Atlantic history embraces essentials of Western civilization, from the first contacts of Europe with the Western Hemisphere to the independence movements and the globalizing industrial revolution. In these probing essays, Bernard Bailyn explores the origins of the subject, its rapid development, and its impact on historical study.

He first considers Atlantic history as a subject of historical inquiry--how it evolved as a product of both the pressures of post-World War II politics and the internal forces of scholarship itself. He then outlines major themes in the subject over the three centuries following the European discoveries. The vast contribution of the African people to all regions of the West, the westward migration of Europeans, pan-Atlantic commerce and its role in developing economies, racial and ethnic relations, the spread of Enlightenment ideas--all are Atlantic phenomena.

In examining both the historiographical and historical dimensions of this developing subject, Bailyn illuminates the dynamics of history as a discipline.


  • [Atlantic History] will provoke and inspire future work in the field because it poses all the right questions: What is a civilization? What are the phenomena that tie it together? How do the participants in its making perceive it?...Perhaps the largest theme of Atlantic History is the story of how this boisterous economy stimulated thinking along liberal conceptions of individual rights and the abolition of human bondage.

    —Hans L. Eicholz, Claremont Review of Books


  • Bernard Bailyn was Adams University Professor, Emeritus, and James Duncan Phillips Professor of Early American History, Emeritus, at Harvard University.

Book Details

  • 160 pages
  • 5 x 7-1/2 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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