Offering a series of critical articles and commentaries by a range of historically-oriented American social scientists, volume 15 of this series examines issues ranging from the relations between classes, power and history to the role of states and culture in mediating those dynamics. Special attention is paid to race, gender, citizenship and civil society in the formation of these structures and processes. The countries or regions under study include the United States, Brazil, Chile, China, Mexico, Samoa and south-west Africa. In keeping with the journal's commitment to inter-disciplinary as well as historical inquiry, the nine contributors come from a variety of disciplines (sociology, political science, anthropology and history), all drawing on debates and themes that cross-cut the social sciences. The significance of the inter-disciplinary perspective is seen not only in the range of cases, literatures and methodologies brought to bear on the key issues under study; it also forms the substantive core of several contributions that call for a rethinking of conventional disciplinary boundaries and methodological frames.