University of Sioux Falls
For the past century, the World History course has been one of the most important ways that secondary students in the United States formally learn about imperialism. Fascinatingly, World History thrived in American high schools long before it emerged as an organized subfield at the university level.
In my new book The Patchwork of World History in Texas High Schools: Unpacking Eurocentrism, Imperialism, and Nationalism in the Curriculum 1921-2021, I argue that American students have been exposed to largely triumphalist narratives of empire. While textbooks readily admit that imperialism was difficult for non-Western peoples, they overwhelmingly associate imperialism with the arrival of modernity and progress, a narrative trope reminiscent of J.M. Blaut’s concept of Eurocentric diffusionism. Over time textbooks have become more nuanced, and the criticisms of empire have mounted, but this core idea of imperialism as a catalyst for progress and development remains standard fare in American classrooms today.Continue reading “Waking up a sleepy world: U.S. Textbook Narratives of Imperialism”