American Ethnic History: Themes and Perspectives

American Ethnic History: Themes and Perspectives

American Ethnic History: Themes and Perspectives

American Ethnic History: Themes and Perspectives

Synopsis

This book provides a new framework for examining and comprehending the varied historical experiences of ethnic groups in the United States. Thematically organized and comparative in outlook, it explores how historians have grappled with questions that bear upon a key aspect of the American experience: ethnicity. How did the United States come to have such an ethnically diverse population? What contribution, if any, has this ethnic diversity made to the shaping of American culture and institutions? How easily and at what levels have ethnic and racial minorities been incorporated, if at all, into the social and economic structures of the United States? Has incorporation been a uniform process or has it varied from group to group? As well as providing readers with an accessible yet authoritative introduction to the field of American ethnic history, the book serves as a valuable reference tool for more experienced researchers.Key Features:•Adopts a comparative and thematic approach that helps to demystify this complex and controversial subject.•Provides an orderly and readable introduction to the main issues and debates surrounding the topic.•Detailed and broad-ranging discussion of historiography enables readers to find more specialized works on topics in which they are interested.

Excerpt

I am not an American, neither through birth nor naturalization. Although I have resided in the United States for extended periods of time, I have always been there as a visitor, a sojourner. This book, therefore, offers an outsider’s view of American ethnic history and what historians, mostly American ones, have written about that history. I do not believe that my position as an outsider will afford me either a better or a worse understanding of American ethnic history than is attainable by an insider, an American, but I do suspect that, like other outsiders who have earlier written on this topic, such as Maldwyn Jones, my interpretation is likely to be noticeably different to what either a native-born or naturalized American of my own generation might offer.

Until recently, my main purpose in learning about the United States was to communicate my findings to a non-American audience – British university students. I offered, therefore, an outsider’s view of America to an audience of fellow outsiders. Despite the prominences of American culture and influence in the United Kingdom, prior to entering university British students are afforded few opportunities for formal study of the United States. Consequently, once they get to university, students opting for courses in American topics have to acquire virtually from scratch an understanding of US history, politics, society, and culture. It is my belief that in undertaking this formidable task these non-American newcomers to American Studies could do a lot worse than begin by examining the issues and debates surrounding American ethnic history. Ethnicity has been a salient issue in every era of the American past and in every region of the nation. The list of major historical events in which ethnicity figured prominently is virtually endless: the framing of the Constitution, territorial expansion, slavery, reform movements, the Civil War, urbanization, industrialization, and so on. Moreover, ethnicity and ethnic interaction has played a significant role in shaping the distinctive character of . . .

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