A Note to Readers on
Internationalization of the JAH

This round table is the first of three projects designed to illustrate some benefits of approaching themes in American history from transnational perspectives. Each explores how a central feature of American history might look different if we interrogated the nation-centered ideas about content and habits of practice that frequently surround it. In drawing attention to transnational perspectives, we seek to tap into rich traditions of historical inquiry that are more fully developed outside the United States than in this country. The first project, presented in this issue, centers on the practice of reading and interpreting documents, and the document under investigation is the one that created this country, the Declaration of Independence. The second project, a special issue in September 1999, will ask how the history, economy, state, and culture of the United States look different when viewed through Mexican perspectives -- deriving from both internal Mexican debates about the meaning of national character and processes that have connected Mexicans and Americans, from war between their nations to marriage between individuals. The final project, a special issue in December 1999, looks at how familiar themes of American history -- migrations, culture, ideas, politics -- might be reconfigured as transnational processes of negotiation, creolization, and border crossing.

Each of these projects represents an extension of our initiative, starting in 1990, to incorporate the study of American history outside the United States into the way American history appears in this journal. In the first phase of the initiative, we emphasized incorporating people outside the United States and their work into our routine lists and reviews of scholarship in American history. As part of that phase, we also offered perspectives on American history from some of our international contributing editors (September 1992) and started an annual award that provides the Journal 's readers with an English translation of the best article of the year on American history that had been published in a foreign language. In the second phase, which begins with the following round table, we wanted to invite people who write from cultural perspectives unfamiliar to many American historians to address and illuminate traditional themes. This initiative tries to move beyond the current fad of debating whether nations or states are, or should be, dying to explore their changing meanings to historical processes and historical scholarship, the sources of nations' strength and weakness over time.