Americans are accustomed to telling their country's story as if the nation were naturally autonomous and self-sufficient. Thomas Bender asks us to rethink this presumed exceptionalism and proposes an alternative to the conventional national narrative. Placing American history firmly in a global context, he recasts the historical developments that were central to the making of the nation and shows why they can be fully understood only in light of America's global entanglement over five centuries.
Bender's exciting argument focuses on five major events or themes. He begins with "the age of discovery," when people everywhere were first feeling the transforming effects of oceanic trade and communication. He then reconsiders our founding Revolution as one of several similar rebellions occurring on many continents, and the Civil War as part of a larger history that associated freedom with a new meaning of nationhood. He also examines the American commitment to empire, from Jefferson's presidency to our own time; and last, in analyzing America's response to the challenges posed by capitalist industrialization and urbanization, he shows its participation in the worldwide conversation addressing these issues, and how American liberalism took its place in the larger global pattern of responses.
A Nation Among Nations makes clear what damage is done to our self-understanding and to our relations with the world when we fail to consider the full dimensions of American history. Bender boldly challenges us to think beyond our borders.