Early Americans inhabited an interconnected world through which people, beliefs, and objects circulated. This course explores the “Atlantic World” as both a place and a concept: an ocean surrounded by diverse communities and empires, and an imagined space of shared or competing affiliations. Moving from the tenth century to the nineteenth, it examines ecological, cultural, political, economic, intellectual, and religious exchanges among Native Americans, Europeans and colonizers, and Africans and African Americans. It introduces both conceptual dimensions of this Atlantic paradigm and case studies that investigate its human subtleties, with the goal of examining early American history through a transnational lens. The course will take up the stories of Wabanaki mariners and Norse/Viking expansionists; Pocahontas, a trio of Inuit people, and myriad other Indigenous travelers to Europe; West African survivors of the Middle Passage and their enslaved descendants who pushed for survival and recognition of their humanity overseas; New England religious dissidents, intellectuals, and profiteers from Caribbean slavery; Touissant L’Ouverture and the reverberations of the Haitian Revolution; and whaling ship crews who pursued cetaceans ever farther out at sea, among other topics. The course also delves into new methodologies for telling histories that have been unevenly presented or seemingly silenced in traditional documentary archives, probing ways that oral traditions, songs, archaeology, material culture, and other forms of expression and representation can help recast the nature and meanings of these connected spaces and histories. Additionally, it provides an opportunity to engage with original materials pertaining to Atlantic World histories in the Williams College Archives/Special Collections and Art Museum.
The Class: Format: lecture will alternate with seminar-type discussion of readings
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation in class discussion, several short essays based on readings and discussion topics, museum/archives exercise, final essay
Enrollment Preferences: sophomore, junior, and senior History majors
Distributions: Division II Difference, Power, and Equity
DPE Notes: This course examines the formation, expression, and articulation of racial, ethnic, cultural, and other forms of difference in the historical Atlantic World, and the ways that peoples of Indigenous and African descent engaged with and challenged European colonization. It devotes substantial time to critical methodologies that re-center voices oftentimes treated as "silenced" or "absent" in older literatures, and helps students build fluencies in recovering and analyzing these lives.