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Open Access Rethinking Atlantic History

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Rethinking Atlantic History

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image of New West Indian Guide / Nieuwe West-Indische Gids

[First paragraph]Shaping the Stuart World 1603-1714: The Atlantic Connection. Allan I. Macinnes & Arthur H. Williamson (eds.). Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006. xiv + 389 pp. (Cloth US$ 135.00)Slavery and the British Empire: From Africa to America. Kenneth Morgan. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007. x + 221 pp. (Paper US$ 32.00)Although an important debate continues about the concept itself, the use of “the Atlantic” has embedded itself in scholarly vernacular. The scholarly output directly spawned by an engagement with the concept continues apace. That ocean, and the peoples who lived and traded along its edges, and who finally moved across it, have provided an important geographical focus for some major reconsiderations of modern history. Prompted by the Macinnes/Williamson volume, I returned to my own undergraduate and graduate notes and essays from courses on Stuart Britain: the Atlantic was totally absent – not even present as a distant speck on our intellectual map. We studied, and debated, the formal histories of migrations to the Americas (i.e. Europeanmigrations) but there was no mention of Africa or Africans. And no sense was conveyed that the European engagement with the Americas (in their totality – as opposed to North America) was a two-way, mutual force: that the European world was influenced, indeed shaped in many critical regards,by the Americas: by the land, the products, the peoples, and by the markets of that hemisphere. At its most obvious in the ebb and flow of peoples, even that eluded the historians I encountered as a student. It was as if we were talking about a different cosmos; few moved beyond the conventions of European migrations westwards and little attention was paid to that most dominant of migrations – the enforced African migrations to the Americas.

Affiliations: 1: University of York.


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