Is American History "Exceptional?" A Global Perspective | Wilson Center
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Is American History "Exceptional?" A Global Perspective

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Following World War II, the dominant narrative of U.S. history posited "American exceptionalism." That assumption shaped historical scholarship and Cold War policy. More recently a neo-conservative belief in exceptionalism has affected international and domestic history. A global perspective reveals that our history is not "exceptional," only distinctive. Every major moment in American history--Revolution, Civil War, Progressivism, and the New Deal, for example--is part of a larger transnational history.

Thomas Bender is university professor of the humanities and professor of history at New York University. His scholarly work has been focused on intellectual and cultural history; his most recent work, however, has been devoted to exploring the ways in which American history has been embedded in histories larger than itself, some of which are global in extent. His books include Rethinking American History in a Global Age (2002) and A Nation Among Nations: America's Place in World History (2006).   



  • Christian F. Ostermann

    Director, History and Public Policy Program; Cold War International History Project; North Korea Documentation Project; Nuclear Proliferation International History Project
    Woodrow Wilson Center