Continental America

Kathleen DuVal

in Atlantic History

ISBN: 9780199730414
Published online May 2010 | | DOI:
Continental America

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  • History of the Americas
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Traditionally, early American history was limited to the thirteen British colonies that rebelled and became the original United States. Increasingly, historians have expanded the study of early America to “continental America,” all of the land and peoples that eventually formed the United States. Rather than ignore these places and peoples until the United States expanded west in the 19th century, historians of continental America include most of North America (and even Alaska and Hawaii) from the beginning. Expanding the land under consideration has led to a recognition that native peoples remained the majority of the population and controlled the vast majority of the continent well past the American Revolution. This expansion also recognizes the important roles French, Spanish, and other non-British colonizers played in this history, both in their own right and as they interacted with British colonies. Yet this expansion has its own intellectual difficulties—it creates a new teleology to focus on the places that became the United States in later periods. Recognizing this potential pitfall and the fact that little of the present-day United States border had relevance in the colonial period, historians of continental America generally draw on and include the histories of northern Mexico, Canada, and the Caribbean where relevant. Although most general works on colonial America now incorporate continentalism at least to some extent, the historiography of the American Revolution and the early American republic has been slower to embrace the continent. Histories of the revolutionary period still generally focus on the thirteen rebellious colonies, and most histories of the early republic still see the continent solely from the perspective of the United States as it expanded west. Still, recent scholarship suggests that the continent is beginning to play a larger role in these later periods as well. Obviously, many entries in this bibliography deal with the North American continent; this entry focuses on historians who explicitly embrace continentalism and those works that stress themes such as Indian power, which continentalism has brought to the fore.

Article.  5285 words. 

Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History

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