27 November 2012

"Atlantic World"

One of my favorite sources for ideas for blog entries is a UK based website "The Browser: Writing Worth Reading" and its "FiveBooks Interviews" e-series in which widely acclaimed authors discuss their personal five best book picks on a particular subject. (I usually only look behind the "History" tab, but there are a whole lot more tabs: Arts & Entertainment; Politics; Lifestyle; Sport; Philosophy & Religion, to list a few.) One of the recent "History" interviewees was Bernard Bailyn, professor emeritus at Harvard University and two-time Pulitzer prize winner.  He originated the term "Atlantic World" now being used in historic circles to redefine and describe the past.  But what does the term "Atlantic World" mean? And what does that term have to do with scope of this local history blog?

According to the "Atlantic World" founder, Bernard Bailyn: 

The subject is really a region’s history over three centuries – the region that is defined by the great networks of social, economic, political and cultural ties among the four continents that form the Atlantic basin – the two Americas, Africa and Europe. The study of the subject creates a transnational perspective for individual events within that area. You see specific events developing in a different way. So it is the study of the interactions, the parallels and the contrasts among events that developed in this huge oceanic region which was distinctive. In the 19th century Atlantic history began to merge into a larger global history, but for 300 years – after the conquest of the Americas up through the end of the colonial period – it had its own history, and that history is useful to keep in mind in studying any part of it.

As Bailyn describes the term, "Atlantic World" has three basic, broad defining characteristics:
1. It was the colonial era for the Western hemisphere.
2. It was dependent on the slave trade.
3. It was a pre-industrial world of based on commerce, agriculture, and extractive industries.

How does this "Atlantic World" concept connect to our local history?
1. The Spanish, French and English competed to claim this area as their imperial possession.
2. Slavery played a crucial role in the development of, and had an enduring impact on, this area.
3. Beaufort District was primarily an agricultural economy well into the late 19th century. 

Read the full interview at http://thebrowser.com/interviews/bernard-bailyn-on-atlantic-history.

To explore the concept of "Atlantic World" more deeply, check out the contents of my "Atlantic World" bookbag. Perhaps you'll find something to pique your interest to deepen your knowledge.

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