Global History Reader

Topic 1: Defining and positioning Global History and Globalization

David Washbrook, “Problems in Global History” in Maxine Berg, ed., Writing the History of the Global: Challenges for the 21st Century (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 21-32.

Washbrook considers the ways in which global history revises many of traditional historical narratives. He considers its main methodologies and limitations and concludes by examining the future evolution of the subject.

Patrick O’Brien, “Historiographical Traditions and Modern Imperatives for the Restoration of Global History,” Journal of Global History 1.1 (2006): 3-39.

A broad introduction on the way in which global history has been done since antiquity and why it was out-of-fashion for most of the 19th and 20th centuries. The most efficient overview of the historiography and methodology of the global history field. Looks at the two dominant approaches of connections and comparisons, as well as the idea of “centric” histories either supporting or challenging the “rise of the West”, and concludes that the restoration of global history rests its potential to construct negotiable meta-narratives with global perspective.

Sanjay Subrahmanyam, “Connected Histories: Notes towards a Reconfiguration of Early Modern Eurasia,” Modern Asian Studies 31 (1997): 735-762.

This article provides a series of reflections on what connections might be in early modern history. Students love it. A concise series of reflections on what connections might be in early modern history, and a reassertion of these against alternative traditions of nationalism and historical ethnography. Subrahmanyam does not necessarily deny difference, but does emphasise connection.

C. A. Bayly, “Archaic’ and ‘Modern’ Globalization in the Eurasian and African Arena, c. 1750-1850,” in A.G. Hopkins, ed., Globalization in World History (London: Pimlico, 2002).

A very sophisticated and engaging reading. An attempt to present a classification of globalization ‘before globalization’. One of Bayly’s best pieces

Frederick Cooper, “What is the concept of globalization good for?” African Affairs 100 (2001): 189-213.

Argues that the concept of globalization is inadequate for analysis of African history as it presumes coherence and direction in the establishment of a global economy. The paper calls for a more discerning process of analysis that does not assume universal processes.

Topic 2: The problem of time (chronologies and periodisation)

Janet Abu-Lughod, Janet Lippman, ‘The World System in the Thirteenth Century: Dead-End or Precursor?’, in Michael Adas, ed., Islamic and European Expansion. The Forging of a Global Order (Philadelphia, 1993), pp. 75-102.

Examines the development of a thirteenth century world system. Built around an “archipelago of towns,” the system was uneven but it was also extensive enough to be truly global. An ambitious attempt to identify global networks in an earlier period. Abu-Lughod conceptualizes this global system as overlapping “circuits” of exchange, and emphasizes the fact that a globally integrated network was made of regional and local economic interactions in a multi-centred pre-modern world.

Dennis Flynn and Arturo Giraldez, “Path Dependence, Time Lags and the Birth of Globalization: a Critique of O’Rourke and Williamson,” European Review of Economic History 8 (2004): 81-108.

Introduction to the work of two important scholars that have dominated the debate about global silver markets. Argues that globalization commenced in 1571 with the establishment of reliable trans-Pacific connections. Suggests that global prices did in fact converge twice in the early modern period—in 1640 and again in 1750.

David Christian, “Scales,” in Marnie Hughes-Warrington, ed., Palgrave Advances in World History (Basingstoke: Palgrave/Macmillan, 2005), 64-89.

A good introduction to the work of one of the most important proponents of big history. Christian seeks a “grand unified story” that cuts across the traditional spatial and temporal boundaries used by historians.

Jerry H. Bentley, “Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History” The American Historical Review 101.3 (1996): 749-770.

Important article that suggests that a study of cross-cultural interaction can be used as a mechanism to periodise history. Bentley “suggests that efforts at global periodization might profit by examining participation of the world’s peoples in processes transcending individual societies and cultural regions.”

David Northrup, “Globalization and the Great Convergence: Rethinking World History in the Long Term,” Journal of World History 16.3 (2005): 249-267

Short but highly ambitious article that argues that recent history can be divided into two ages: one dominated by divergence and a second (beginning around 1000 C.E.) that he calls an age of convergence.

Topic 3: The problem of place (geographical divisions, etc)

Martin W. Lewis, and Karen E. Wigen, The Myth of Continents: A Critique of Metageography (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

Examines the logic behind standard geographical labels. Defines metageography as the “set of spatial structures through which people order their knowledge of the world” and sets out to deconstruct these. Proposes a new framework, world regions, for dividing the globe.

Andrew J. Abalahin. “”Sino-Pacifica”: Conceptualizing Greater Southeast Asia as a Sub-Arena of World History,” Journal of World History 22.4 (2011): 659-691.

An important article that aims not simply to challenge conventional regional demarcations, but also to introduce a new one. Abalahin argues that drawing a line between Southeast and East Asia crews a slew of historical problems. Argues instead for “Sino-Pacifica, a macro-region encompassing Southeast Asia, East Asia, Northeast Asia, and Inner Asia.”

A. Dirlik, “Performing the world: Reality and representation in the making of world histor(ies),” Journal of World History 16 (2005): 391-410 .

Dirklik presents a highly critical analysis of what he calls “conventional spatialities of nations or civilizations … or cultures.” Examines three units of analysis, China, Asia, and Islam, and clearly shows the problems inherent within each. More useful for its assault on existing scholarship than for laying out a path forward.

Adam McKeown, “What Are the Units of World History?” in Doughlas Northrop, ed. A companion to world history (Chichester, West Sussex : Wiley-Blackwell, 2012)

Important article that examines both the spatial and the temporal divisions of world history. Suggests four frames of reference, Comparison and connection, Zones and systems, Globalization, and Humanity, each of which provide a concrete framework around which to organize historical research.

Sugata Bose, A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (Harvard University Press: Cambridge, MA, 2006)

One of the most successful attempts to use oceans and seas as a unit for historical analysis. Bose defines the Indian Ocean as an “interregional arena of political, economic and cultural interaction.” As such, he suggests that it lies between the overly general category of world region and the more specific notion of a region.

Topic 4: Debates and narratives (The place of Europe, issues of convergence and divergence, etc)

Craig Clunas, “Modernity Global and Local: Consumption and the Rise of the West,” American Historical Review, 104.5 (1999): 1497-1511.

A critique of the Euro-centric way in which the history of consumption has been narrated. As a theme that most students are familiar with, this might be a good readings to practically address Euro-centric and Anglo-phone views of history.

Jack Goldstone, “Efflorescences and Economic Growth in World History: Rethinking the ‘Rise of the West’ and the Industrial Revolution,” Journal of World History 13 (2002): 323-90.

Explores standard concepts relating to economic expansion and the Western political hegemony (e.g. “modern”, “pre-modern”, etc.), arguing that these overshadow analysis of economic, political, and social differences affecting economic development across the globe.

Prasannan Parthasarathi, “Review Article: The Great Divergence,” Past and Present 176 (2002): 275-293.

Probably the best critique of Pomeranz’s important book on The Great Divergence. Parthasarathi argues that consumption and technology should be given more space in narratives of divergence.

Niall Ferguson, “Sinking Globalization,” Foreign Affairs, 84/2 (2005): 64-77.

Is globalization coming to an end as it did in 1913? Ferguson considers a list of ‘warning signs’ and claims that globalization might not be as permanent a phenomenon as historians and social scientists would like to represent it.

Samuel Huntington, “The Clash of Civilizations?” Foreign Affairs, 72/3 (1993): 22-49.

The original formulation of the much-criticised ‘Clash of civilizations’ theory proposed by Huntington in which the world is divided into seven large civilization who compete against each other.