ABSTRACT

Over the last few decades, scholars have enlivened and transformed the field of colonial history. Rather than scouring the colonial era in order to pinpoint the embryonic origins of various elements of the American character, or to better understand the mettle and goals of the revolutionary generation, historians have adopted an Atlantic perspective that emphasizes the connectedness of the societies bordering on the Atlantic Ocean, and the dynamic interactions-trade, migration, negotiation, competition, and conflict-that transformed and shaped the regions and peoples who came into regular contact from the late fifteenth century onward. Africans who tragically ended up being kidnapped into slavery, Europeans who chose to migrate, and indigenous peoples born in North America or the Caribbean all had long histories connecting them to homelands and traditions that influenced their reactions to one another and to their new environments. The networks they created, recent scholarship has pointed out, were not circumscribed by today’s territorial boundaries. By moving away from the focus upon the emergence of the United States, historians have been able to reconstruct colonial worlds much closer, we believe, to the way they would have been experienced by their diverse inhabitants.1