Publication Date

July 17, 2012

Perspectives Section

AHA Activities

American History Now series emblemContinuing where The New American History left off 20 years ago, American History Now is an informative, up-to-date collection of 18 essays that examine new historiographical developments in every major field of American history. With an entirely new group of authors, the series challenges prevailing assumptions in earlier scholarship, analyzes new burgeoning fields of study—such as environmental history, American religion, and capitalism—and provides new approaches to the study of established fields such women’s history, African American history, and immigration history. American History Now is an invaluable resource for students, teachers, and everyone interested in learning more about the American past.

1. Squaring the Circles: The Reach of Colonial America
By Alan Taylor
Prominent historian Alan Taylor updates and summarizes scholarly advancements in the historiography of American colonialism in this short, yet brilliant, essay.

2.American Revolution and Early Republic
By Woody Holton
In this fascinating examination of recent scholarship in early American Republic historiography, Woody Holton shifts the focus away from the typical “Founding Fathers” model towards the contributions of distinct social groups, such as Native Americans, African Americans, and women, who made significant contributions to the American Revolution and the creation of the early Republic.

3. Jacksonian America
By Seth Rockman
In an attempt to paint a more socially diverse picture of the Jacksonian era, Seth Rockman takes readers into a quick, yet concise, examination of recent scholarship in this continually evolving subfield.

4. Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction
By Adam Rothman
Most historians of the American Civil War have reached a vague agreement on slavery—that it “somehow” caused the American Civil War. In this interesting essay, Adam Rothman takes a look at recent historiography that attempts to clarify not only how exactly this came about, but also why the Confederacy lost and slavery ended.

5. The Possibilities of Politics: Democracy in America, 1877–1917
By Robert D. Johnston
Robert D. Johnston takes an in-depth look at recent scholarship in the late 19th-century American historiography, and shows how the social, political, and corporate developments in this period gave rise to and created modern America.

6. The Interwar Years
By Lisa McGirr
Building on Robert D. Johnston’s essay, Lisa McGirr examines scholarship of the period between the world wars, and finds modern America to be a fully formed reality during this time.

7. The Uncertain Future of American Politics, 1940–73
By Meg Jacobs
Looking at the scholarship in American cultural, social, and political history of the past 20 years, Meg Jacobs challenges the typical “liberal New Deal domination” of the post-World War II era and finds that a cohesive “New Deal” consensus was not indeed the case.

8. 1973 to the Present
By Kim Phillips-Fein
Diving into the murky waters of recent history, Kim Phillips-Fein takes an intriguing look at scholarship in American history of the past 40-plus years, and discovers an era starting to develop a distinction of its own beyond the previous “post-World War II” classification.

9.The United States in the World
By Erez Manela
Erez Manela looks at the revitalized historiography in the subfield of American diplomatic history, a direct result of new developments in cultural history, and the “transnational turn,” which focuses on U.S. historical involvement in the larger world.

10. The “Cultural Turn”
By Lawrence B. Glickman
Lawrence B. Glickman examines the “cultural turn,” which focuses on new subfields, such as disability history, visual studies, and identity, to show how cultural history has become the dominant historiographical method of the past 20 years.

11. American Religion
By John T. McGreevy
John T. McGreevy looks at recent scholarship in the oft-neglected and misunderstood role of religion in American history, and discovers a vibrant and fast-developing new subfield.

12.Frontiers, Borderlands, Wests
By Stephen Aron
Stephen Aron looks at recent scholarship in the “new western history,” which places a greater emphasis on ethnic diversity in the study of American expansion in the 19th and 20th centuries.

13. Environmental History
By Sarah T. Phillips
The scholarship of environmental history has grown into a major historiographical field of study within the past 20 years, and Sarah T. Phillips looks at how this emerging field has been applied within the broader context of American history.

14.History of American Capitalism
By Sven Beckert
For better or for worse, capitalism is the philosophy that has come to define the United States. In this intriguing essay, Sven Beckert takes a look at the historiography of American capitalism, which has been, according to Beckert, ironically neglected by historians until recently.

15. Women’s and Gender History
By Rebecca Edwards
The studies of women and gender are historiographical fields that have benefited greatly from the “cultural turn” of the past 20 years. In this essay, Rebecca Edwards surveys recent scholarship in these burgeoning fields, and illustrates effectively how many previous assumptions, especially pertaining to women’s history, have been overturned.

16. Immigration and Ethnic History
By Mae M. Ngai
Mae M. Ngai takes an in-depth look at the recent changes in immigration history, another field that has benefited from the “transnational turn,” which has pushed scholarship beyond the traditional study of white Europeans and placed new emphasis on ethnicity, worldwide patterns of migration, diaspora, and hybridity.

17.American Indians and the Study of U.S. History
By Ned Blackhawk
The study of Native Americans has expanded greatly within the past 20 years. Ned Blackhawk looks at the recent historiography in this field, and shows how this expanding focus has reshaped significantly the larger field of American history.

18. African American History
By Kevin Gaines
Kevin Gaines presents an incisive overview of recent developments in the field of African American history, focusing on significant contributions such as slavery and the slave trade, segregation in both the South and North, and the “long” civil rights movement.

Each pamphlet in this series is $7 (AHA members receive a 30% discount). For more information on these and other titles and to purchase them, visit the AHA Publications Store at

This post first appeared on AHA Today.

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