Rethinking Periodization? APD & the Macro-History of the United States
Polity 2005, Volume 37, Number 4.
Dividing American history into discrete periods dates to the first European colonists in North America, several of whom variously declared their region or colony to represent a "new beginning" a "new land of Canaan," a New England, and so forth: "in the New World is born a new history," as one early sermonizer had it. (1) Soon thereafter clerics and political leaders (often the same people) lamented their fellows' fall from grace; the dichotomy of golden age and descent into depravity, of Awakening and backsliding, has been an American motif ever since. Eventually, the sweep of U.S. history was sorted on a chronological, rather than theological or eschatological, basis. For well over a century political historians have in the main hewn to a familiar temporal script.