A word with an impersonal and clumsy sound, “globalization,” has often been invoked as a symbol of contemporary social change and a harbinger of a bleak future. As the following essays try to suggest, however, historians have been familiar with this phenomenon, if not with the word itself, for some time. The United States, one could argue, resulted from an earlier incarnation of the thrust beyond familiar boundaries as it occupied a new world and created an unfamiliar hybrid society with global resonances. But, globalization as it is understood today usually refers to changes that have taken place since World War II and have accelerated in the 1990s, as worldwide communications, free markets, and the massive migrations of peoples are remaking personal identities and cultural boundaries.
In this section, I try to use America's peculiar history as a means to better understand globalization today and specifically to evaluate the experiences of children in that world. This is especially the case in the first of these essays, Chapter 7, originally written for a conference on globalization in, Poland, in November 2001 and subsequently published in the Journal of Social History. In this, my first attempt to use the concept, I try to put what I knew about American experience to use in order to suggest what might be happening to children elsewhere when the conditions begin to approximate those in the United States in the past. I am proposing that American experience can even provide us with a way to anticipate changes elsewhere in the world today. To do this, I attempt to define the elements (such as work, consumption, schooling, and gender) that will likely be affected as the pressures of economic change, media saturation, and the exposure to diverse cultures spread. In this first foray in thinking about globalization and children, I assumed that the United States was both a force for globalization and a model of how it operated.
By the time I wrote the essay published here as Chapter 8, which looks at the effect of contemporary migrations on children, my sense of globalization had become far more dynamic. I now considered how the United