We are all Atlanticists now — or so it would seem from the explosion of interest in the Atlantic and the Atlantic world as subjects of study among historians of North and South America, the Caribbean, Africa and western Europe. The Atlantic is even beginning to shape the study of literature, economics, and sociology on topics as diverse as theatrical performance, the early history of globalization and the sociology of race. However, no field seems to have taken an Atlantic perspective with more seriousness and enthusiasm than history. Indeed, Atlantic history has been called ‘one of the most important new historiographical developments of recent years’.1 It is affecting the teaching of history at all levels, especially in the United States; it now has its own conferences, seminars and graduate programs; prizes are being awarded for the best books on it; even the first textbooks are being planned. Like the national histories it is designed to supplement and even replace, Atlantic history is becoming institutionalized. This might therefore be a good moment to ask just what Atlantic history is and where it is going, before it becomes entrenched and inflexible.
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