Expressions of gratitude have a long tradition in the development of transatlantic ties between Europe and North America. Since the 18th century, Americans have – for example – repeatedly expressed gratitude for French aid in the American Revolution through celebrations of Lafayette. More recently, Dutch citizens adopted the graves of American soldiers buried on Dutch soil in gratitude for the American sacrifices during the Second World War. Conversely, when members of the Trump administration described the European NATO countries as ‘ungrateful allies’, we were reminded that the perceived absence of gratitude can accentuate and even accelerate international tensions.
What is the function of gratitude in transatlantic relations? When, where, and how has it been expressed and who was involved? Have gestures of gratitude evolved over time? Reversely, has the absence of gratitude had an impact on transatlantic ties?
By identifying the presence and significance of gratitude in the long history of transatlantic relations, we hope to offer new perspectives on European-North American relations and to place, amongst other things, ordinary civilians, women, children, emotions, and material culture more firmly into the history of international relations. Following recent trends in diplomatic history, we do not mean to limit our understanding to the staged ceremonies of formal diplomatic exchange but rather adopt a broad and inclusive exploration of the diplomatic process. This includes the roles of communities and private citizens in the development of transatlantic relations, and integrates insights from a variety of disciplines, not least cultural and social studies. Thus, we consider gratitude in broader transatlantic cultural, political, economic, and diplomatic contexts.