A lecture delivered Thursday night by Professor Thomas Bender of New York University was the first in a series entitled “America In The World” sponsored by the Reves Center for International Studies and the Tyler department of history.
p. The goal of the lecture series is “to encourage all members of the William and Mary community to engage and learn from perspectives different from their own and to recognize the centrality of global issues to their own lives,” Laurie Koloski, associate professor of history at the College, said.
p. The subject of Thursday’s lecture, “Putting America Into World History,” addressed the consequences of a global outlook given traditional approaches to American and world history.
“Both Americans and others have a difficult time placing the events in American history in relation to world history,” Bender said. He was critical of what he described as American “exceptionalism.”
Bender also said that many Americans assume our national history to be superior and removed from global affairs and that this belief stems from our geographic isolation from most modern industrialized nations. He further discussed the limited perspective of such a view and stressed a more globally aware approach to history.
p. Bender emphasized the importance of seeing history in the context of other nations’ histories. His discussion included commentary on the settling of North America and the colonial period, as well as the Revolutionary, Civil and French and Indian Wars.
p. With each topic in American history, Bender offered evidence to stress how — throughout its history — America has depended on and been effected by the policy of nations, citing immigration, trade and economics as reasons for international contingency.
Bender also said that the overseas transportation of political ideas and technology in conjunction with national industrialization and urbanization are aspects of history that have and that continue to add to the cultivation of a global perspective.
p. “The ocean is not a barrier, but rather a connector between continents,” Bender said. “There are connections between major themes of American history and the rest of the world. We can be unique and still be a part of that.”