Global History

Global history seeks to move beyond national categories to consider historical processes that transcend individual states, regions, and cultures. Global historians examine the development and diffusion of new technologies like firearms, the impact of ecological transfers, the global nature of protest and resistance, the experience of urbanization and a range of other topics. They are particularly interested in tracing movements, whether it is of ideas, commodities or diseases, across borders and in exploring the impact of cross-cultural exchange.

boat-detailGlobal History at Monash has established close connections with the Global History and Culture Centre at Warwick University, the leading institute for the study of Global History in Europe. We have developed a set of online resources for Global History that are designed to provide a clear introduction to the field. These include an annotated bibliography as well as a Global History reader, a set of 20 readings capable of introducing students to key debates, issues and approaches in the field.

Staff Research Areas

The History Program includes a number of staff working on topics in Global History:

Adam Clulow East Asian history, European imperialism, Dutch and English East India Companies
Ernest Koh Modern Southeast and East Asian history
Kate Murphy Australian history and social history
Seamus O’Hanlon 19th & 20th century Australian and British urban, social and cultural history
Susie Protschky ‘European empires in Asia; Indonesian history; History of photography, Visual culture

Undergraduate Units Offered

We offer a range of units in global history. See the handbook for a full list of units, but you might particularly want to consider:

The commodities that changed the world: An introduction to globalisation and global history
How have commodities shaped the world we live in today? The unit explores a range of key commodities including silver, tobacco, cotton, sugar, coffee, spices and oil that were exchanged across large parts of the world and which came to transform the political, economic and social contours of disparate regions. Through an analysis of the transnational flow of goods across the last 600 years, we will explore the expanding field of Global History and consider the advantages and pitfalls involved in moving beyond the standard boundaries of area studies to make use of new methodologies and historical frames. In addition to exploring the objects of globalisation, the unit also uncovers its agents by focusing on how mercantile companies, smugglers, trade diasporas and a host of other groups facilitated the creation and exploitation of global connections. By weaving together the stories of different commodities, this unit aims to present new ways to understand the development and impact of global capitalism.
Global cities: past, present future
How have cities contributed to the progress of globalisation over the past two millennia? This unit analyses a series of major world cities, examining their histories, contemporary situation, and emerging or possible future development scenarios. The overarching theme will be the historical and contemporary role of cities as drivers of economic and social change, with a sub-theme around the idea of cities as centres of cultural interaction.
Global Disasters: Catastrophe and social change
This unit examines the social history and impact of disasters from the late nineteenth century to recent times. Case studies include environmental and industrial disasters, pandemics, famines, and climate change events. We examine the processes that make disasters ‘global’, like travel and communications technologies and environmental systems. Using films, photographs, media reports and autobiographical sources, we examine the representation and experience of disasters to learn how they have been understood, experienced and responded to in contested ways. In doing so, we analyse the social causes of ‘natural’ and ‘unnatural’ disasters; how catastrophes have been catalysts for social change; and how disasters stimulate utopian and dystopian ideas about the globe’s future.
Global justice: civil and human rights after 1945

Honours Level

This unit explores civil and human rights campaigns since 1945. It examines their origins and outcomes, and the ways in which they drew from and contributed to an emerging international framework. Further case studies include women’s rights and sexual liberation, freedom of speech, capital punishment, economic justice and unfair trade. The unit examines the development of global movements and organisations, new technologies and tactics of protest and the formation of virtual communities of activism. It also covers the relationship between universal notions of justice and differences of gender, culture and belief, and potential differences between local and global understandings of ‘rights’.