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All nations are to some extent defined by their past – but the United States seems to have a particularly complex relationship with its history. Indeed, for a nation built on ideals of equality and liberty, the US seems surprisingly divided in its understanding of how to translate those founding principles into modern life. Is the South’s Confederate heritage something to be honoured, for example, or a source of present-day shame? Why is police violence against African-Americans still a recurrent problem? In the year since Donald Trump was elected president, many of these contradictions have once again been exposed: in the clashes between white supremacist and anti-racist campaigners in Charlottesville in August, for instance, and in ongoing protests about police brutality.

In this, our final issue of 2017, we explore the United States’ historical legacy with a set of features charting the events and tensions that continue to shape the nation. Why do these spectres still haunt the US? And what can be done to finally put them to rest?

On page 18, Adam IP Smith argues that America’s second great revolution – the Civil War – has been misunderstood or forgotten by later generations, and suggests that this prevents old wounds from healing.


And 25 years on from the riots that gripped Los Angeles, Benjamin Houston examines their causes and consequences, and assesses the extent to which the tensions that fuelled the violence remain simmering below the surface. That’s on page 28.

There are many other facets to American history, of course, and elsewhere this issue we look at a couple. On page 36, we profile a US pioneer whose battles against bigotry helped promote a more inclusive society, while on page 110 we embark on a visual tour of Coney Island, the New York City resort where generations of Americans enjoyed their leisure time.

As always, we also explore a wide range of historical destinations, from David Bowie’s Berlin (page 62) to an ancient Greek expedition to Britain (page 100). We have lot s more pla nned for next yea r – and, for the first time, you can now subscribe to BBC World

Histories magazine. To find out more, turn to page 38 – and don’t miss our next issue, on sale from 24 January. Ma￿ Elton Editor, BBC World Histories

Together with two regular titles, the BBC History Magazine team also produces a bi-weekly podcast, live events and a range of special editions exploring specific topics and periods

Available around the world, BBC History Magazine is published 13 times a year in print and many digital editions. Turn the page for our latest subscription offer


Launched in 2016, BBC World Histories complements BBC History Magazine and is published every two months. Turn to page 107 for details on issue 8 and to order any back issues


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