The field of United States history is currently experiencing a period of profound transformation as scholars work to eradicate the disciplinary barriers that often distinguished between national and world history as mutually exclusive pursuits. Over the past decade, Texas A&M’s Department of History has been the gathering place of much remarkable research working to re-orient U.S. history in order to better understand how the nation’s past has long been embedded in far larger planetary systems of migration, economic development, technological adaptation, and communication. This cluster is part of a broader intellectual push to reframe United States history as deeply immersed in hemispheric and global affairs. We posit that American history is more fully and best understood as entangled in other histories, and that other histories gain enhanced perspective when told in relationship with the United States. We also seek to study the very meaningful ways that events within and decisions made by the United States have resonated around the wider world. We help both our students and ourselves to become more conscientious national and global citizens by emphasizing the longstanding intercultural connections that have transcended the territorial limits of the nation-state and bound people together. We stress that good history should also teach humility: the United States is more productively studied not as an exceptional country or “blessed among nations,” but rather as a “nation among nations” subject to the same processes and global systems that simultaneously shaped other places and other peoples.
A U.S. in the World cluster, with its emphasis upon expansiveness—both geographic and thematic—is particularly appropriate given the department’s desire to foster dialogue across a variety of fields. The traditional separation between the United States and “everything else” might be more effectively overcome by a paradigm that fundamentally rejects that distinction. A U.S. in the World cluster has the added benefit of placing the department well in line with an emerging scholarly trend. We provide an important locus of transnational and comparative research and teaching of significance to the discipline more broadly. Over the past decade at least, several important scholarly journals such as the American Historical Review, Journal of American History, Journal of the Early Republic, and Diplomatic History have dedicated special issues to the debate over internationalizing American history. Moreover, professional organizations such as the American Historical Association, Organization of American Historians, Society for the Historians of the Early American Republic, and Society for the Historians of American Foreign Relations spend larger and larger portions of their annual conferences discussing research related to situating U.S. history alongside that of the wider world. Our faculty have produced (and are currently producing) books, textbooks, articles, and papers deeply engaged with those conversations. Our graduate students, meanwhile, have also presented research at these venues, and are themselves being trained in dramatically expanded conceptions of what constitutes U.S. history. New methodology is being employed within our graduate program that emphasizes the need to study non-state actors in foreign relations, the importance of utilizing international archives, and the valuable perspective that multi-lingual research can bring to scholarship. In other words, this is an enormously vibrant and still-growing thrust within the field that shows little sign of abating. Our program has long included productive members of this discussion, and it is useful, therefore, to more formally organize.