C. A. Lerg u.a. (Hrsg.): The TransAtlantic Reconsidered

The TransAtlantic reconsidered. The Atlantic world in crisis

Lerg, Charlotte A.; Lachenicht, Susanne; Kimmage, Michael
Key Studies in Diplomacy
200 S.
Reviewed for Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists by
Bernhard Hemetsberger, Institut für Bildungswissenschaft, Universität der Bundeswehr München

Covers, titles and blurbs influence our decisions whether we buy, read or review a newly published book. As I came across this work all three attracted my attention. The cover depicting The Time and Tide Map of the Atlantic Charter designed by MacDonald Gill during the first years of the 1940s was appealing. Being concerned with the transatlantic concept myself, I was delighted to find it here reconsidered and expected to be up to date after having read the nine chapters. Their titles sounded promising while scanning the list of contents. However, most compelling was the book's subtitle The Atlantic world in crisis: it urged me as the blurb promises that “The Atlantic community seems to be in crisis, and it is time to critically rethink past narratives and traditional frameworks of transatlantic relations.” I wondered how the concept of crisis would be conceptualized. Moreover, distinguished scholars from both sides of the Atlantic provide chapters, such as Charles S. Maier, Bernard Bailyn, Nicholas Canny or Konrad H. Jarausch.

The first few chapters, consisting of an interview with Bernard Bailyn (pp. 13-17), who set up the Harvard Atlantic History Seminar in 1995, as well as overviews of the formation and transition of Transatlantic studies (chapter 2 to 4), are is very informative. Any emerging scholar in this field will be happy to follow the editors’ and author’s answers on “how do we as academics assess the Atlantic World … and the concept of the Atlantic World” (p. 1) from its coining by Walter Lippmann in 1917 and more than a hundred years of transformation. This outline of the state of the field is followed by specific approaches of conducting transatlantic projects. One highlights private organizations, discursively stimulating the public arena in forming the Transnational Transatlantic (Giles Sott-Smith, chapter 5). Konrad H. Jarausch (chapter 6) campaigns for – using German historiography about the Nazi past as a departure point – focussing on divergent interpretations of the past to get a more complete picture. Ariane Leendertz chapter – the only one that puts “crisis” in the title draws on historical circumstances, not on conceptual obstacles allowing to assume a critical period or theoretical challenge. Meanwhile, withdrawing my threefold expectations Giuliana Chamedes´ chapter 8 covering Transatlantic Catholicism and the making of the ‘Christian West’ was of personal interest to me.

As Thomas Adam put it in his chapter 9: “Historians … are always the product of their culture and environment” (p. 158) and in this sense, crises of the Atlantic world as a histori(ographi)cal concept may be obvious in the changing times of the 2020s. Furthermore, the experience of transformations in this field, described in the opening chapters of the anthology, show an unease the proponents share, while the increasing numbers of publications in the field makes me wonder, if there really is “no doubt [as Scott-Smith declares] that a particular transatlantic era is now drawing to a close” (p. 76). Could it be that it is rather a particular transatlantic interpretation currently under attack by global historians, as Konrad H. Jarausch (p. 109) and Thomas Adams (p. 157) suggest? Certain periods in history certainly challenged transatlantic projects; however the ‘transatlantic space’ does not make the impression of being in crisis.

Even though all chapters are worth reading and promise to meet different needs, the reader of the anthology sees many loose ends and little efforts of working towards a coherent collection. Nonetheless, the book provides an interesting overview for newcomers to this field and invites them to pick and choose what is of respective use.

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