High school and college students know the story: You study U.S. history in one class, European history in another and world history in yet another. Unfortunately, the lessons you learn in one rarely carry over to the others.
Not so, says Saint Mary's U.S. history professor Carl Guarneri, one of a growing number of scholars who say American history should be placed within a comparative framework.
"There is a movement to globalize the study of U.S. history and reattach it to the history of the rest of the world," says Guarneri. "It sounds self-evident, but U.S. history has always emphasized separation."
In his April 17 talk on "The United States among the Western Settler Societies," Guarneri outlined his preliminary research about how the United States shared important similarities with other British-settled colonies such as Canada and Australia, especially in the 19th century.
Unlike India, for example, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the United States were "temperate-zone settler societies" where high levels of immigration were part of "England's attempts to clone itself," Guarneri explained.
"In each of these societies, you find efforts to settle a frontier and a rough equality among white settlers--both of which happened at the expense of people of color," he said.
Guarneri also outlined how Latin American countries earning their independence around the same time as the United States confronted similar challenges.
In the case of 19th-century Argentina, Juan Batista Alberdi, an author of the country's constitution, drew inspiration from Alexander Hamilton and the Federalist Papers.
"The Argentine Supreme Court even used decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court as precedents in its own cases," Guarneri noted.
The United States borrowed ideas from other "settler societies" as well. In the late 19th century, progressive reformers in the U.S. viewed New Zealand as a social laboratory for the welfare state.
"For almost two decades, New Zealand was at the center of debates about reform in the United States. It was seen almost as a utopia that had managed to deal with labor and equality issues," Guarneri said.
McGraw-Hill recently published Guarneri's America in the World: United States History in a Global Context. An excerpt will appear in the summer edition of Saint Mary's Magazine.
Office of College Communications