Volume 20, 2004
World-System Analysis: Contemporary Research and Directions
Atlantic History and World Economy
Concepts and Constructions
This article presents a unified, multidimensional, and relational approach to Atlantic history by treating the Atlantic as a historical region of the capitalist world economy. In contrast to more conventional comparative approaches, the approach presented here grounds Atlantic history in the longue durée geographical historical structure of the maritime Atlantic and construes particular political, economic, social, or cultural units as parts of the more encompassing Atlantic and world economies. Within this framework, particular units or relations are viewed as complex historical outcomes of relations and processes operating across diverse spatial and temporal scales. Thus each unit is related to the others, and each occupies a distinctive location in the maritime Atlantic division of labor. Through an example of plantation slavery, the article examines the ways in which specific units are formed within the larger historical field and examines the variation among them. By calling attention to the relations among units over time and in space within a unified historical field, it identifies specific conjunctures and contingencies shaping Atlantic history.