American-European Relations in U. S. World History Textbooks, 1921-2001

  • Martin Alm Aarhus University, Denmark


This article studies U.S. views of the historical relationship between the U.S. and Europe as conceived during the 20th century. This is examined through U.S. World history text books dating from 1921 to 2001. The textbooks view relations within a general teleological narrative of progress through democracy and technology. Generally, the textbooks stress the significan ce of the English heritage to American society. From the American Revolution onwards, however, the U.S. stands as an example to Europe. Beginning with the two world wars, it also intervenes directly in Europe in order to save democracy. In the Cold War, the U.S. finally acknowledges the lea ding role it has been assigned in the world. Through its democratic ideals, the U.S. historically has a spe cial relationship with Great Britain and, by the 20th century, Western Europe in general. An American identity is established both in conjunction with Western Europe, by emphasizing their common democratic tradition, and in opposition to it, by stressing how the Americans have developed this tradition better than the Europeans, creating a more egalitarian and libertarian society. There is a need for Europe to become more like the U.S., and a Europe that does not follow the American lead is viewed with suspicion.