It is indeed a notable fact that the United States of America has been known to be a naturally independent and self-sufficient country since then. Historians have deliberately suggested that America is isolated from the rest of the world and that it has its own characters, ideologies and events that are all undoubtedly unique.
This is the primary reason why American history is taught with the basis of chauvinistic perception- that America is autonomous from the start.
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If most historians or instructors resolved to that suggestion, Thomas Bender chose to stand up for what he thinks is the truth about America. In his book “A Nation among Nations: America’s Place in World History”, he persuasively narrated that America’s history must be seen and taught in a broader perspective instead of just focusing on its said “autonomy”.
He proposed that the country’s history shouldn’t be treated as an entirely exceptional account because its triumphs and travails have also been experienced by other countries but in various ways. Bender presented a more global view of America’s history by providing five key events, which he believes influenced the view of Americans today towards their country.
First is the New World’s discovery wherein people from different points of compass arrived and settled in scattered regions of America primarily because of oceanic travel and trade. Next comes the “age of rebellion” or American Revolution which Bender depicted in the context of competition among empires.
He pointed out that the significance of rivalry between Europe and the rise of nationalism in other countries is often neglected when it comes to teaching or retelling America’s history. Subsequently, when countries decided to redefine their core beliefs about the nature of freedom, the Civil War took place. Bender discussed this third event with apt concentration on the violence and cruelty which resulted to million deaths in America.
He transparently pointed out that America underwent a violent process to build a strong nation. The fourth point that he tackled was the rise of imperialism which affected America against Spain, France, England, and Germany. The fifth and last point that he discussed was the response of America towards industrialism and urbanization during the 20th century.
Bender believed that those five events were really vital in America’s history and that they must be taught in an unbiased manner. Meaning, they must not be desensitized for they contain unnoticed truths about the country. In the final chapter, Bender defied Americans to rethink their twisted notions of America’s history.
He believed that viewing America as an “interdependent history with other histories” is helpful because it will justify the sense of identity of Americans. Thomas Bender was indeed successful in showing that America has shaped and has been shaped by other countries and that under the power and consistency of America lays a deeply grounded truth: that is indeed a nation among nations.
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