In the seven years since the AHA’s then-president Lynn Hunt predicted that the “next big thing” might be “some kind of revival or refashioning of diplomatic and/or military history,” international history has exploded onto the historical stage. Not driven by a political agenda or a single geographical focus, the approach of “new international history” is characterized by the crafting of a research agenda around a set of questions not limited by the boundaries of the nation-state or archival research in a single language or region or empire. Works often involve states and non-state organizations as actors, including media, non-governmental organizations, international businesses, and diasporic populations. The nation-state still has a meaningful place, but is considered merely as one player, rather than the sole causal agent in international decisionmaking.
The idea of international history dates back many decades—with important examples of histories of international relations emerging from the UK and Ernest May's and Akira Iriye’s works--but relatively few scholars put the idea into practice until rather recently, mostly thanks to the opening of new archives with the end of the Cold War. Such works have applied an expanded conception of the politics and economics of international relations with an integrated analysis of policy and society on an international scale. The central premise is that the problems under consideration cannot be understood without reference to decisions, events, and mentalities unfolding in multiple locations. The approach of international history has energized the study of critical historiographies, most notably the two World Wars, the Vietnam War, and the Cold War. But international history holds the promise of being applied to a much broader set of questions and time periods. International history is related to but differentiated from diplomatic history, which carries the connotation of state-oriented activity, though of course practitioners of diplomatic history have broadened their inquiries beyond the capital cities of a handful of great powers. More recently, transnational history has emerged to focus attention on issues beyond the nation-state, those that cross national borders.
This panel proposes to discuss some of the issues of defining, assessing, and publishing works of international history. Placing acquisitions editors into conversation with series editors, the roundtable will address such questions as: Does international history represent something new and different to the historical marketplace, or just to the discipline? What is the relationship between international and transnational history, and international and diplomatic history? Does the focus on international history distract us from domestic imperatives that may ultimately be the key to understanding foreign relations? Is “international” history meaningful to general readers? To what extent does the move toward international history mirror or anticipate historical practices in other countries? Does its audience cross disciplines such as politics and international relations, or does it include policy types and other practitioners? Do readers trust authors who don't read in the languages of places about which they're writing? Do publishing markets differentiate between international history, transnational history, and the history of the United States and the world?