Publication Date

October 23, 2006

Post Type

American Historical Review

The October issue of the _American Historical Review_ is now available on-line at the History Cooperative.

The issue contains three articles and a Forum, along with our usual extensive Book Review section. The articles take us first to the moon (in the company of seventeenth-century English writers), then to late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century Africa, and finally to the Roman Empire. The Forum is on the timely subject of Anti-Americanism.

In “Early Modern Space Travel and the English Man in the Moon,” David Cressy suggests that 1638 was England’s lunar moment, when speculation about the plurality of worlds, the likelihood that the moon was inhabited, and the possibility of a plurality of worlds fostered a veritable lunar discourse among clerics and others in Stuart England, drawing upon ancient and medieval astronomical, theological and literary traditions. His article shows that in a post-Copernican, post-Reformation, and post-Columbian Europe, the bounds of wonderment were virtually unlimited.

Derek Peterson’s “Morality Plays: Marriage, Church Courts, and Colonial Agency in Central Tanganyika, ca. 1876-1928” offers a corrective to conventional views of Africa’s legal history as defined in terms of a perpetual contest between modern governance and inflexible tradition. The essay focuses on the history of conjugal litigation in late-nineteenth-century Tanganyika, and shows husbands and wives entering into the legal process by articulating their own interests and complaints in a recognizable moral discourse that could draw judges’ attention and sympathy. Peterson’s article contributes to the growing literature on colonial agency in an African context.

“Peregrini, Barbari, and Cives Romani: Concepts of Citizenship and legal Identity of Barbarians in the Later Roman Empire” by Ralph W. Mathisen offers us an example of a an expanding empire of many different peoples confronting the vexed question of inclusion through the granting of citizenship. Barbarian settlers and their descendants had the opportunity to make use of Roman civil law in the same way it was used by other Roman citizens. Evolving concepts of citizenship thus facilitated the integration of foreign, barbarian populations into the western Roman world during the fifth and sixth centuries. Mathisen’s article offers a distant model of how citizenship can be made inclusive.

The AHR Forum, “Historical Perspectives on Anti-Americanism” looks at this phenomenon from four different parts of the world. Greg Grandin’s, “Your Americanism and Mine: Americanism and Anti-Americanism in the Americas,” begins with the emergence of the concept itself, showing that it was first voiced in the nineteenth century as a charge against supporters of European tariffs placed on U.S. goods. From this, in the early twentieth century, commentators broadened the definition of “anti-American” to cover the growing popular opposition to American power. In response, policy elites, scholars, and pundits marshaled the concept of “anti-Americanism,” drawing on ideas associated with psychology and psychoanalysis—resentment, fear, and ambivalence—to argue that eruptions in Venezuela, Cuba and elsewhere sprang, not from legitimate grievances, but from dislocation and uncertainty caused by the transition to modernity.

“Always Blame the Americans,” Jessica C.E. Gienow-Hecht’s contribution to the Forum, looks at debates about philo- and anti-Americanism in Eastern, Western and Southern Europe from 1776 to September 11. She argues that European anti-Americanism has had very little to do with America or its policies, and even less with transatlantic relations. European anti-Americanism is not monolithic or constant, but heterogeneous and episodic in its eruptions. Most important, she insists, anti-Americanism cannot be understood without its flip side, philo-Americanism.

Despite the enormous diversity of Asian cultures and political systems, Warren I. Cohen and Nancy Benkopf in “America in Asian Eyes” see a pattern of anti-American sentiment in the region over more than a hundred years. Asians have long lamented the inability of the U.S. to act in accordance with its rhetorical commitment to its liberal values, especially democracy and self-determination. The Cold War reinforced images of the United States as the land of opportunity and freedom, but Washington’s support for regional dictators, the behavior of American troops in Asia, and the war in Vietnam only lent credence to communist anti-American propaganda. It is perhaps not surprising that anti-Americanism has soared in Asia’s Muslim countries since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Finally, Juan Cole’s “Anti-Americanism: It’s the Policies,” offers a comment on the Forum as a whole, offering a critique of some of the authors’ interpretations as well as the underlying logic of their analyses. Drawing upon contemporary opinion polls and quantitative studies, he also is able to provide evidence on what is undoubtedly the region where contemporary anti-Americanism is both most pronounced and of greatest concern, the Middle East.

Looking forward to December issues, we will have articles on the impact of Wilsonian self-determination in Asia, smoking in the early modern Ottoman world, child welfare in early-twentieth-century Bohemian lands, and public healing in Modern Africa. In addition, readers will discover a new feature of the journal: an AHR Conversation, involving the participation of six scholars, on the subject of “Transnational History.”

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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