The US and the World

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Elizabeth Sine

This course breaks open the traditional, nationally-oriented structure of United States history to explore the entangled relationship between that history and others of international, transnational, and global scope. Taking a multifaceted approach to understanding the United States’ place in the world, we will move beyond the frameworks of diplomatic and foreign relations histories, focusing instead on historical issues, processes, and events that have occurred both above and below the level of the nation-state. We will devote particular attention world-historical themes that marked the late-nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the era in which the United States came to play an increasing role on the global stage—including industrialization, imperialism, citizenship, the World Wars, and the Cold War. By situating the United States—and the lives of people in it—within the world, we seek to question ideas such as American exceptionalism and the historical roots of U.S. hegemony, as well as more generally the utility of national histories. Finally, this course seeks to incorporate the study of culture, race, class and gender into a new globalized U.S. history.


This is primarily a discussion-based course, with some supplementary mini-lectures.

Assignments and Grading

Three paper assignments, all 4-6 pages in length, and each 20% of your grade Participation = 40 %

WEEK 1: Introduction to the Course

De-Naturalizing Nationalism

  • Patrick Finny, “Introduction: What is International History?” Palgrave Advances in International History (Palgrave MacMillan, 2005).
  • Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983), Introduction.
  • Etienne Balibar, “The Nation Form: History and Ideology,” in Race, Nation, Class: Ambiguous Identities, ed. Etienne Balibar and Immanuel Wallerstein, 86-106 (Brooklyn: Verso, 1991).
  • Thomas Bender, “Historians, the Nation, and the Plenitude of Narratives,” in Rethinking American History in a Global Age, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), 1- 12.

WEEK 2: American Colonies and Early American History

  • Thomas Bender, A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History (New York: Hill and Wang, 2006), Chap. 1: “The Ocean World and the Beginnings of American History.”
  • David Armitage, The Declaration of Independence: A Global History (Harvard University Press, 2007), Chap. 1 and 2: “The World in the Declaration of Independence” and “The Declaration of Independence in the World.”
  • Cassandra Pybus, Epic Journeys of Freedom: Runaway Slaves of the American Revolution and their Global Quest for Liberty (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006), Prologue, Chap. 1-2 and 8-9.

WEEK 3: Industrial Capitalism and Progressive Reform

  • Jeffry Freiden, Global Capitalism: Its Rise and Fall in the Twentieth Century (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006), Introduction and Chap. 1: “Prologue: Into the Twentieth Century” and “Global Capitalism Triumphant.”
  • Emily Rosenberg, Spreading the American Dream: American Economic and Cultural Expansion, 1890- 1945 (New York: Hill and Wang, 1982), Chap. 1 and 2: “Introduction: The American Dream” and “Capitalists, Christians, and Cowboys, 1890-1912.”
  • Daniel Rodgers, “An Age of Social Politics,” in Rethinking American History in a Global Age, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), Chap 10.

WEEK 4: American Empire

  • Paul Kramer, The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States, and the Philippines (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006), Chap. 2: “From Hide to Heart: The Phippine- American War as Race War.”
  • Laura Briggs, Reproducing Empire: Race, Sex, Science and US Imperialism in Puerto Rico (Berkeley: UC Press, 2002), Chap. 1: “Sexuality, Medicine, and Imperialism.”
  • Matthew Connelly, Fatal Misconception: The Struggle to Control World Population (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2008), Chap. 4: “Birth of the Third World.”

WEEK 5: Labor and Migration

  • Dirk Hoerder, “From Euro- and Afro-American to Pacific Migration System: A Comparative Migration Approach to North American History,” in Rethinking American History in a Global Age, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), Chap. 8.
  • Ronald Takaki, Strangers from a Different Shore: A History of Asian Americans (New York: Little, Brown, and Company, 1989, revised 1998), Chap. 2: “Overblown with Hope: The First Wave of Asian Immigration.”
  • Alicia Schmidt Camacho, Migrant Imaginaries: Latino Cultural Politics in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands (New York: New York University Press, 2008), Chap. 1: “These People Are Not Aliens: Transborder Solidarity in the Shadow of Deportation.”

WEEK 6: The United States and International Human Rights

  • Elizabeth Borgwardt, A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights (Cambridge: Belknap Press, 2005), Chap. 2: “Forging a New American Multilateralism.”
  • Samantha Power, “A Problem from Hell”: America in the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002), Chap. 3-4: “The Crime with a Name” and “Lemkin’s Law.”
  • Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (New York: Random House, 2002), Chap. 12: “Universality under Siege.”
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights
  • The Genocide Convention

WEEK 7: The U.S. in the Cold War World

  • Marilyn Young, “The Age of Global Power,” in Rethinking American History in a Global Age, ed. Thomas Bender (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), Chap 11.
  • Odd Arne Westad, The Global Cold War: Third World Interventions and the Making of Our Times (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), Introduction and Chap. 4: “Creating the Third World: The United States Confronts Revolution.”
  • Stephen J. Whitfield, The Culture of the Cold War (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), Chap. 1: “Politicizing Culture: Suspicious Minds.”

WEEK 8: The Development Paradigm

  • William J. Lederer and Eugene Burdick, The Ugly American (New York: W. W. Norton, 1958).
  • Charles Abrams, Man’s Struggle for Shelter in an Urbanizing World (Cambridge: M.I.T. Press, 1964), Chap 1 and 5: “Population Inflation and Urban Invasion” and “Obstacles to Progress in Housing.”
  • S. M. Keeny, Half the World’s Children: A Diary of UNICEF at Work in Asia (New York: Association Press, 1957), Chap. 2 and 3: “Further Education” and “Tales of Six Cities.”
  • Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash, Grassroots Postmodernsim: Remaking the Soil of Cultures (New York: Zed Books, 1998), Chap. 4: “Human Rights: The Trojan Horse of Recolonization?”

WEEK 9: Civil Rights and Racial Liberation

  • Robin D. G. Kelley, “‘But a Local Phase of a World Problem’: Black History’s Global Vision, 1883- 1950,” The Journal of American History 86 no. 3 (December 1999): 1045-1077.
  • Penny Von Eschen, Race against Empire: Black Americans and Anticolonialism, 1937-1957 (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1997), Chap. 5 and 7: “Domesticating Anticolonialism” and “Remapping Africa, Rewriting Race.”
  • Max Elbaum, Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao, and Che (New York: Verso, 2002), Chap. 1 and 2: “‘The System’ becomes the Target” and “The Appeal of Third World Marxism.”

WEEK 10: Global Nation?

  • David Harvey, A Brief History of Neoliberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), Chap. 1 and 2: “Freedom’s Just Another Word …” and “The Construction of Consent.”
  • T. V. Reed, The Art of Protest: Culture and Activism from the Civil Rights Movement to the Streets of Seattle (University of Minnesota Press, 2005), Chap. 9, “Will the Revolution Be Cybercast?: New Media, the Battle of Seattle, and Global Justice.”
  • George Lipsitz, American Studies in a Moment of Danger (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001), Chap. 1: “In the Midnight Hour: American Studies in a Moment of Danger.”
  • Gustavo Esteva and Madhu Suri Prakash, Grassroots Postmodernsim: Remaking the Soil of Cultures (New York: Zed Books, 1998), Chap. 2: “From Global to Local: Beyond Neoliberalism to the International of Hope.”