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The British Discovery of American History: War, Liberalism and the Atlantic Connection


The years following the Second World War, according to the Norwegian scholar Sigmund Skard, witnessed the “Rediscovery of America,” as European academics belatedly turned their attention to the United States at a time when its pre-eminent global role could not be ignored. In Britain some believed that the awakening was already under way, the Principal of what became Exeter University having described 1941 as the year of the British “discovery of America.” The jarring realization that the very survival of Britain depended on a close alliance with the American giant had precipitated not only frenetic governmental activity but also intense interest in the United States throughout the media. Perhaps the “discovery” or “rediscovery” of America in British consciousness cannot be dated with exact precision, but the years from the war to the mid-1960s may fairly be called the “take-off period” for the academic study of American history in Britain. This essay briefly considers the role of some of the participants in this endeavour.

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Journal of American Studies
  • ISSN: 0021-8758
  • EISSN: 1469-5154
  • URL: /core/journals/journal-of-american-studies
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