The simple and perhaps obvious fact that the Atlantic world has no boundaries has generated some anxious questioning about the scope of the field of Atlantic history. In writing the history of an age of interoceanic travel, should we separate the Atlantic from the Indian and Pacific Ocean worlds? Should Atlantic narratives stretch to encompass the history of the Andes, the Great Lakes region, the South African veldt, or other areas distant from the coasts? One common approach to such questions is to begin in the Atlantic and follow processes centered there to the edges of the region and beyond, for example, investigating to what extent Atlantic-style colonizing was tried outside the Atlantic or tracing the circulation of Atlantic commodities in the wider world. This approach depends in part on assumptions about the characteristics of distinctive Atlantic-centered processes. An alternative perspective converts these assumptions into research questions by beginning with global processes and analyzing variants in the Atlantic. Viewed in the context of global change, the Atlantic emerges as a region in formation, where widely occurring phenomena developed regionally distinctive patterns at particular historical moments.
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