Introduction to the Atlantic System

This website is designed to guide students to the formation of the Atlantic System from 1450 - 1600.  We'll examine the development of Atlantic centered empires that arose from 1450 onward.  Empire is an aggressive expansion of a state's power beyond its own territory into other territories.  From 1450 onward, the rise of European empires and colonization of the Atlantic region through conquest and domination also coincides with the rise of modern world history and of capitalism.

The transformation of the Atlantic World in the 16th century resulted in the depopulation of the indigenous population of the Americas to one-fourth of the original population of around 54 million.  It also resulted in the forced slavery and migration from the 16th to 19th centuries of up to 12 million Africans across the Atlantic, marking the rise of a modern capitalism that became dependent on slavery for four centuries.  It transforms and links a diverse fusion of people and cultures.  The Mississippi Blues, Bluegrass, the Harlem Renaissance, the Celtic Revival, and Reggae music are all products of the Atlantic System and exchange.  But so also are slavery and torture, slave rebellions and abolition movements, segregation, Jim Crow, apartheid and civil rights movements.

Key Studies in Atlantic History

There are a number of excellent overviews of Atlantic history and the Atlantic system that students may make use of, but the following are especially noteworthy:

  1. Jack P. Greene and Philip D. Morgan, eds. Atlantic History:  A Critical Appraisal (Oxford University Press, 2009)
  2. John H. Elliott, Empires of the Atlantic World: Britain and Spain in America, 1492-1830.  (Yale University Press, 2007)
  3. Thomas Benjamin, The Atlantic World:  Europeans, Africans, Indians and Their Shared History, 1400-1900.  (Cambridge University Press, 2009).
  4. There is also an excellent discussion board for students and scholars alike to follow and partake at H-Net Atlantic Discussion Network