One hears so much these days, in academic circles, about the transnational that it is surprising that a decade ago it was a new concept in many fields. This was particularly so among historians of United States foreign relations, where high-level diplomacy and affairs of state had been the focus of attention as long as anyone could remember. So it was that the inaugural publications in The United States in the World—a book series dedicated to transnational scholarship—were unexpected, innovative, and trend-setting in the study of what was once termed “foreign affairs.” This year marks the ten-year anniversary of the first two books published in the series, and it is time to recognize the insight of the founding series editors and give tribute to the field-changing impact of the twenty volumes that have been published since 2007.
The story of the series goes back to 2005, when Mark Philip Bradley and Paul A. Kramer collaborated with my predecessor at Cornell University Press, Alison Kallett, to frame the series concept. At that time no press had a series of books in history focusing on the role that non-state actors, flows of capital and peoples, and non-governmental organizations had in state diplomacy and international relations. The editors proposed to push beyond the then-popular idea of global history and then to “draw on domestic and international archives,” “challenge conventional periodizations,” and “explore how people, ideas, and cultures traveled between the United States and the rest of the world.” Moreover, while looking ever outward to the larger world, the books were always intended to enrich and broaden, as Mark and Paul wrote in their series proposal, “our understanding of modern United States history.” Continue reading “The Transnational Trend in U.S. Foreign Relations 10 Years In: Reflections on a Path-breaking Book Series”→
Big history is making a comeback in the subfield of early American history. Or perhaps I should say that bigger history is once again of interest to scholars and, as an acquisitions editor, I am seeing exemplary work that shows what can be accomplished when one takes on the challenge of offering a more grand and sweeping account of events.
The contrast here is with the more fine-grained, local, and sometimes fragmentary work that came to the fore in the decades-long rise of social and cultural history. Rightfully weary of the big histories of famous men, military conflicts, and affairs of state, historians turned to the particularities of events and personal experience. In so doing they did scholars and lay readers alike a great service by putting us in contact with the daily and intimate aspects of history (often using diaries and court records), the experience of lesser-known historical actors (often women and people of color), and informal practices that structured experience (often unregulated markets, social networks, and resistance movements). And, as a result, today no one can do legitimate research and write meaningful narratives while overlooking these rich dimensions of historical experience. Continue reading “Outbox: Trends in the History of Early New York”→
As I wrote about the histories of working-class smoking, tobacco control, and nicotine addiction in my book, Clearing the Air: The Rise and Fall of Smoking in the Workplace, I was often reminded of my own difficult past as a heavily addicted cigarette smoker. In fact, the project stemmed from two important sources: first, my discovery of unique documents that detailed the history of working-class smoking practices at Hammermill Paper Company in Erie, Pennsylvania, during 1915; and the insights gained from my own hellish experiences with nicotine addiction. For eleven years, throughout what was my twenties, I was a regular smoker who came to know very well the power of addiction and how tobacco use facilitated challenges to managers’ authority at work.
I began smoking as a new student in college in order to socialize with other individuals who happened to be smokers: in other words, I started using tobacco to fit in with a new peer group. My addiction to nicotine unfolded very quickly, occurring over a period of no more than a month in the fall semester of 1992. Sadly, I took to smoking very, very easily. By December 1992, toward the end of my first semester in college, I needed nearly a pack of cigarettes every day in order to prevent withdrawal symptoms. Continue reading “The Labor of Addiction: A Personal History of Smoking in the Workplace”→