Global and World History
Since the mid-1990s “global history” has become a major source of reformulations, an inspiration for research, and a provocation for critics. It is increasingly regarded by its practitioners as synonymous with “world history”. If there is a difference, “world history” describes the subject matter, while “global history” denotes an approach: a focus on comparisons and connections between and across world regions. This resurgence of interest in global perspectives among historians stemmed partly from a sense that they had been leaving the “big questions” of history increasingly to other social scientists, while themselves becoming obsessed with specialised issues almost as an end in itself. “Global history” has also been propelled by a cumulative reaction against Eurocentrism in historiography and social science, both in the stories told and in the concepts with which they were constructed (it was no coincidence that many pioneers of world and global history were themselves historians of Asia or Africa). Finally, the reception of global history has been both facilitated and complicated by a strong sense, public and scholarly, of the interconnectedness of global and local phenomena. The major themes of global historiography so far include the interaction of humans and the natural environment, why some countries are vastly richer than others, imperialism and colonialism, and “globalisation” (and “de-globalisation”). Critics of global history are by no means confined to defenders of Eurocentrism, with some arguing that the project of global history risks merely updating, rather than subverting or transcending, Eurocentrism. World and global history perspectives, and their problems, are some of the major themes explored in the teaching, seminars and writing of the Department.