The Atlantic World is an historical concept that frames the histories of Europe, Africa, and the Americas from the opening of the age of European exploration to the ending of the American wars for independence in the 1820s. It emerged as an idea in the midst of World War II as a way to conceptualize the military and cultural alliance that had bound Great Britain and the United States through both world wars. To be sure, earlier historians of empire, exploration, and conquest had examined many of the issues that would later characterize Atlantic World scholarship, but they wrote in the absence of an overarching framework and instead focused mainly on the flow of people, ideas, and goods from Europe to the Americas with little to no consideration of how such flows affected indigenous and African societies and how they reverberated back across the Atlantic. The exigencies of World War II, however, required new ways of thinking about the nations that clung to the eastern and western edges of the Atlantic—“the inland sea of Western Civilization,” as it was known in academic circles—against the collective might of Fascist Europe. After the war, colonial historians pulled the Atlantic World model away from government policy makers and international diplomats and applied it to a series of important studies of the Chesapeake Bay region, Puritan New England, and Spanish Mexico. The rise of the study of slavery in the 1960s and 1970s further augmented such earlier works and expanded the notion of what exactly a colonial society was. Later developments in African history afforded links between colonies and that continent such that the map of the Atlantic World expanded to include the Gold Coast, the Ivory Coast, the Congo, and the Bight of Benin. More recently, as scholars followed the paths blazed by colonial trade and chattel slavery, they uncovered the ways in which North America’s first peoples interacted with the Atlantic World, how their lives changed as a consequence of Christopher Columbus’s landfall in the Caribbean, and how, in their turn, they shaped the contours of this new and expanding world. Dependence on trade goods, the ravages of epidemic diseases, indigenous efforts to counter both the growth of colonies and the devastation wrought by the trade in enslaved first peoples constitute major areas of investigation that have clearly shown the level of engagement first peoples had with Africans and Europeans through their membership in the Atlantic World.
Article. 9681 words.
Subjects: History of the Americas ; European History ; African History ; History ; Regional and National History
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