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Atlantic history is a fast developing field of historical inquiry that operates upon new assumptions about how to understand the remarkable nature of interactions between different peoples and cultures on four continents and many islands in the period between Columbus’ voyages to the New World in the late fifteenth century and the end of slavery in the Americas in the late nineteenth century. Its principal theme is the movement of peoples, ideas and things in the Atlantic World – a world encompassing the continents of Africa, Europe, North America and South America and many islands, from the Canary Islands near Africa to the Caribbean islands and to Bermuda in the North Atlantic. The multiple movements were fundamentally important in shaping the modern world and in making cultural diversity a key component of modern identity.
Importantly, Atlantic history differs from previous ways of looking at the transmission of cultural patters in the development of American, European and African societies in being determinedly polycentric rather than monocentric. In other words, the Atlantic world has no originary centre and is not conceived as a world in which Europeans acted and other peoples reacted but instead was a constantly evolving and changing world in which ideas, peoples, and things from disparate areas continually interacted with other ideas, peoples and things in complex ways, initiating diverse and fascinating processes of historical change. That the Atlantic World had no centre and no periphery but was one, ever changing world is a key way in which Atlantic history can be distinguished from historiographies such as `the Rise of the West’ which preceded its development as an historical field.
The nature of Atlantic history as a field means that there is an abundance of information out there for students and scholars to peruse. The problem is that the information available is both overwhelming and also very variable in quality? How can we find our way through the abundance of information that threatens to swamp us so that we can identify what is really good in the increasingly abundant literature that is being written about Atlantic history? I believe that Oxford Bibliographies is the best means to access the information that as scholars and students we need to master this rapidly changing historical field. The series was launched in 2009 and now has over 100 entries available for use with many more in development. Articles are written by a range of scholars from numerous countries and summarise the best in scholarship now available.
Editor in Chief
Trevor Burnard is Professor of History and Head of the School of History and Philosophy at the University of Melbourne. He has previously taught at the Universities of Warwick, Sussex, Brunel, Canterbury (NZ), Waikato and West Indies at Mona. He has also been a fellow at the National Humanities Center at North Carolina. The author of numerous books and scholarly articles, Dr. Burnard is interested in the history of early British America, including the British West Indies, and the Atlantic World, 1500-1800, particularly slavery, social history and demography, imperialism, economic and business history, and gender.
FOUNDING EDITORIAL BOARD
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