Journal of American History

Presidential Address

Ralph Waldo Emerson’s Saxons

	Ralph Waldo Emerson. Engraved and published in 1878 by S. A. Schoff from an original drawing by Same W. Rowse.
Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, LC-DIG-ppmsca-07398.

Ralph Waldo Emerson towers over the American Renaissance but seldom as the philosopher-king of American white-race theory. Though both white masculine gender panic and spread-eagle Anglo-Saxonism are traditionally situated at the turn of the twentieth century, Emerson laid out those ideas in the 1850s in an influential treatise and oft-repeated lectures. He portrayed the American as Saxon and separated the genealogy of the American Saxon from that of the Celt. In her presidential address to the 2008 Organization of American Historians convention, Nell Irvin Painter argues that Emerson elevated the Saxons and removed the Celts from the identity of the American, making it clear that “Saxon” (or, later, “Anglo-Saxon”) was not a synonym for white, even though the historiographical literature often makes that equation. (pp. 977–85) Read online >


“The Outskirts of Our Happiness”: Race and the Lure of Colonization in the Early Republic

In the first decades of the nineteenth century, powerful groups emerged in the United States to champion the removal of both Native Americans and free blacks. While historians usually see such groups as barometers of a rising racism in the United States, Nicholas Guyatt, instead argues that they paid lip service to universalism and race-neutral human potential by advocating colonization. Colonizationism appealed to white clergymen, philanthropists, and politicians by insisting that nonwhites could develop successful societies and perhaps even emulate the United States—if they moved outside the American republic. These parallel colonization projects suggest that the slippery logic of “separate but equal” has a longer history than has previously been imagined. (pp. 986–1011) Read online >

Relief from Relief: The Tampa Sewing-Room Strike of 1937 and the Right to Welfare

In Tampa, Florida, during the Great Depression, the Works Progress Administration (wpa) sewing rooms, including the one pictured here in 1935, constituted the largest work relief program for women. Sewing-room jobs were a lifeboat for many women, especially older ones, whom private employers shunned.
Courtesy State Archives of Florida, Tallahassee, Florida.

In 1937 women working for the New Deal’s Works Progress Administration in a Tampa, Florida, sewing room conducted an unusual strike. Elna C. Green investigates their sit-down strike, which tried to publicize the precarious status of many women on work relief. But efforts to provoke a general strike that would have forced the federal government to respond to the women’s plight failed. Green argues that the tactics of organized labor proved unsuited to the needs of welfare recipients; it would be another generation before a welfare rights movement would find its voice. (pp. 1012–37) Read online >

World History in a Nation-State: The Transnational Disposition in Historical Writing in the United States

The American historical profession has recently promoted an interest in world history while opening up a transnational perspective on the history of its own country. Post structuralism, postcolonial studies, and charges leveled at American historical writing— its perceived lack of synthesis—have destabilized the field. The removal of national history to the context of transnational relations may therefore seem an attempt at a new synthesis. But, Marcus Gräser argues in the essay that won the David Thelen Award for 2008, the origins of a transnational outlook in American historical writing go back further, to 1890–1920, when professional history took shape in the United States. At that time the embedding of the nation in the broader context of “civilization,” the development of particularist historical cultures within an immigration society, and the marginal institutional connection between private universities and a national government uninterested in academia laid the basis for a stable transnational disposition among American historians. (pp. 1038–54) Read online >

Round Table

The field of U.S. foreign relations history has not been unaffected by the recent trend toward globalization in the writing of U.S. history. Indeed, argues Thomas W. Zeiler, U.S. diplomatic historians have been drivers of the internationalization bandwagon. They have placed America in a global context, drawn on cultural history, and wielded ideology as an explanatory tool, while maintaining a focus on the traditional and distinctive base of diplomatic history: the state. As a result, the study of foreign relations has become a clearinghouse for the study of the United States in the global arena as well as of the influences of world developments at home. Following Zeiler’s article, Fredrik Logevall, Mario Del Pero, Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht, and Kristin Hoganson, all historians of foreign relations, offer perspectives on the state of the field.

  • “The Diplomatic History Bandwagon: A State of the Field,”
    by Thomas W. Zeiler (pp. 1053–73) Read online >
  • “Politics and Foreign Relations,”
    by Fredrik Logevall (pp. 1074–78) Read online >
  • “On the Limits of Thomas Zeiler’s Historiographical Triumphalism,”
    by Mario Del Pero (pp. 1079–82) Read online >
  • “What Bandwagon? Diplomatic History Today,”
    by Jessica C. E. Gienow-Hecht (pp. 1083–86) Read online >
  • “Hop off the Bandwagon! It’s a Mass Movement, Not a Parade,”
    by Kristin Hoganson (pp. 1087–91) Read online >

Textbooks & Teaching

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Book Reviews

March 2009, Vol. 95 No. 4

Alphabetical by the last name of the book's first author or editor.


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Editor’s Annual Report, 2007–2008

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Recent Scholarship

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Contents of Volume 95

Index to Volume 95

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cover image

On the cover:

Mabel Hagan, leader of the 1937 sit-down strike in a Works Progress Administration—sponsored sewing room in Tampa, Florida, stands inside the room the strikers occupied. Hagan and her fellow strikers, in protesting the layoff of eighty-eight women receiving work relief there, claimed a right to public assistance. Courtesy Tampa Tribune. See Elna C. Green, “Relief from Relief: The Tampa Sewing-Room Strike of 1937 and the Right to Welfare,” p. 1012.

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