Chapter 1The American Land: Landscapes of Abundance, Wilderness, and Beauty
Chapter 2The West and the South: Exceptional Regions and Regions of Exceptionalism
Chapter 3Cities upon Hills: The Colonial Foundations of American Exceptionalism
Chapter 4Sacred Fire of Liberty: The American Revolution and the Transformation of American Exceptionalism
Chapter 5The American Way of Empire: Exceptionalism and U.S. Foreign Policy
Chapter 6Promissory Notes: Exceptionalism and African American Self-Empowerment
Chapter 7Perfectible Union: American Exceptionalism and Reform
Chapter 8People of Plenty: American Exceptionalism and Affluence
Chapter 9Crisis of Disorientation: Contested Exceptionalisms in Contemporary America
About the Author
Most Americans believe in the idea that their nation is not only different from other countries but that it occupies a unique place in the moral universe of world history. In this compelling and very readable book, Volker Depkat, one of the leading German historians of the United States, moves beyond the stale debates of the past and offers a concise account of how Americans – and Europeans – have imagined America as exceptional and how competing concepts of American Exceptionalism have shaped US history until today.
With this magisterial synthesis of a vast range of source materials in which competing versions of this notion have been made to serve different, at times mutually exclusive, social, geographic, political economic, and cultural agendas, Volker Depkat has accomplished what I once thought impossible: a comprehensive, systematic, yet utterly accessible conceptual history of American exceptionalism from its colonial and revolutionary beginnings to the present.
Volker Depkat's highly readable account of the conceptual workings and practices justified by exceptionalism expertly navigates centuries, shifting geographical boundaries, myriad types of sources and artistic works, as well as transnational and regional outlooks and experiences. Looping back and forth in time, thematically organized chapters drive home the fluidity of positive and negative exceptionalisms. This in‑depth study demonstrates why one person's new beginning was often another person's premature demise and why high‑flying hopes were frequently disappointed. American Exceptionalism, with its compact yet intricate chapters and its immensely useful bibliographical essay, is an asset for American Studies classes on competing conceptualizations of the US and for anyone interested in fathoming US history.