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A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World Historyby Thomas Bender
Synopses & Reviews
A provocative new book that shows us why we must put American history firmly in a global context--from 1492 to today
Americans like to tell their country’s story as if the United States were naturally autonomous and self-sufficient, with characters, ideas, and situations unique to itself. Thomas Bender asks us to rethink this “exceptionalism” and to reconsider the conventional narrative. He proposes that America has grappled with circumstances, doctrines, new developments, and events that other nations, too, have faced, and that we can only benefit from recognizing this.
Bender’s exciting argument begins with the discovery of the Americas at a time when peoples everywhere first felt the transforming effects of oceanic travel and trade. He then reconsiders our founding Revolution, occurring in an age of rebellion on many continents; the Civil War, happening when many countries were redefining their core beliefs about the nature of freedom and the meaning of nationhood; and the later imperialism that pitted the United States against Germany, Spain, France, and England. Industrialism and urbanization, laissez-faire economics, capitalism and socialism, and new technologies are other factors that Bender views in the light of global developments.
A Nation Among Nations is a passionate, persuasive book that makes clear what damage is done when we let the old view of America alone in the world falsify our history. Bender boldly challenges us to think beyond our borders.
"Since 1500, argues NYU's Bender (The Unfinished City: New York and the Metropolitan Idea), people everywhere have participated in a single global history. Yet American historians have often myopically suggested that America exists in a vacuum, isolated from the rest of the world. In this exciting and lucid study, Bender reframes American history, arguing persuasively that America's past must be seen as part of an international story. From the colonization of the New World in the 16th century to the social reforms of the early 20th century, America's triumphs and travails have shaped and been shaped by decisions, people and trends in Europe, Africa and Asia. It is hardly innovative, of course, to interpret the American Revolution as an international event. More arresting is Bender's reading of the Civil War as not simply an internal fight between North and South: it can only be understood when seen as part of 'a larger history of... conflicts over nationalism and freedom and the proper balance of central and local authority.' This timely book will doubtless turn Bender into a pundit du jour; more importantly, he will help Americans make sense of their place in the wider world, past and present." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An original, ambitious, and consistently provocative book that should change the way we study and teach American history." --Eric Foner, Columbia University
In this major book, Thomas Bender recasts the developments central to American history by setting them in a global context, and showing both the importance and ordinariness of America's international entanglements over five centuries.
Bender focuses on five major themes, beginning with 1492 and "the age of discovery," when people everywhere first felt the transforming effects of oceanic trade. He asks us to see our Revolution as one of several similar rebellions around the globe, and the Civil War as part of a larger history associating the new meaning of nationhood with freedom. He also examines the American commitment to empire from Jefferson's presidency to our own time, and makes it clear that America's responses to capitalist industrialization and urbanization were part of a worldwide conversation.
Asking readers to rethink America's history as being autonomous and self-sufficient, Bender proposes that America has grappled with circumstances, doctrines, new developments, and events that other nations, too, have faced, and that today's Americans can only benefit from recognizing this.
About the Author
Thomas Bender, professor of history and the humanities at New York University, is the author and editor of more than a dozen books. He lives in New York City.
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