James Mark History Department, University of Exeter
The University of Exeter, in collaboration with the Universities of Oxford, Columbia, Leipzig and Belgrade, the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, and University College London, has recently been awarded a major Arts and Humanities Research Council Grant (2014-18) to address the relationship between what were once called the ‘Second World’ (from the Soviet Union to the GDR) and the ‘Third World’ (from Latin America to Africa to Asia).
In the post-war period, as both decolonization and new forms of globalisation accelerated, new linkages opened up, and existing ties were remade, between these ‘worlds’. Contacts multiplied through, for instance, the development of political bonds; economic development and aid; health and cultural and academic projects; as well as military interventions.
Last month saw the publication of the Radical History Review’s special issue on ‘The Global Anti-Apartheid Movement’. Appearing on the 20th anniversary of South African democracy, the issue contains articles, roundtables and review pieces that explore a range of transnational connections that shaped political opposition to white supremacy in South Africa. As editors Lisa Brock, Alex Lichtenstein and Van Gosse comment in their introduction, “in seeking contributions to this issue, we made a deliberate effort to give the truly global nature of the movements in solidarity with southern Africa their due.”
Last week, I came across two provocative blog posts, at The Junto and the Imperial and Global History Network (IGHN), on teaching global history that got me thinking reflectively about my own recent experiences of approaching American and British imperial history from a global historical perspective. The big takeaways from both pieces seem to be: 1) teaching global history is a challenge not just for students but for teachers; and 2) that the net positive from teaching history from a global vantage point at the graduate level far outweighs said challenges. However, The Junto’s Jonathan Wilson concludes by quite explicitly questioning whether global historical approaches are in fact suitable for the first-year undergraduate classroom. Continue reading “Is Global History Suitable for Undergraduates?”→
Centre Director Andrew Thompson explains that if globalization is not to silence the past, we need to delve back into its history – its imperial history.
‘Globalization’ is among the biggest intellectual challenges facing the humanities and the social sciences today. It is a concept that conveys the sense that we are living in an age of transformation, where change is the only constant, nothing can be taken for granted, and no-one knows what the future might bring. But globalization is also much more than that. To borrow the phrase of the historical sociologist, Mike Savage, it is an ‘epoch description’, something that seeks to define for the current generation the very meaning of social change. By thinking of ourselves as part of a globalized world, we are saying something about how over time our identity has changed. We are locating ourselves in time, differentiating ourselves from our predecessors, signalling a break with what went before. Continue reading “Imperial Globalization – The Presence of the Past and the Crucible of Empire”→
History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.
—Max Beerbohm, 1896.
Historians are often charged — sometimes correctly — with precipitously proclaiming a “new” field of study: a field that, upon further investigation, is shown to be remarkably similar to earlier turns in the historiographical timeline. The post-colonial and subaltern “turns” of the 1980s are cases in point, as they, however unwittingly, tended to ignore the prodigious and overlapping work within Area Studies that had appeared in preceding decades. I duly began to wonder if the term “global history” might prove to be yet another illustrative example. Continue reading “Sleuthing the Origins of ‘Global History’”→
David A. Bell Lapidus Professor of History, Princeton University Contributing Editor, The New Republic
I am grateful to Marc-William Palen for his smart, sharp comments on my New Republicessay, and also for his generous offer to let me respond to them on this blog.
Palen calls my essay ‘provocative’ and ‘eloquent’, but also ‘unfair’. I certainly prefer this judgment to ‘balanced, but dull and inarticulate’, but the adjective ‘unfair’ still rankles a little. In particular, Palen charges me with confusing page counts and criticism; with mixing up Atlantic history and global history; and with ‘expect[ing] the impossible’ from the volume that I was reviewing.
[Update: Please also read Professor Bell’s response.]
A recent New Republicarticle by David A. Bell on the limitations of the ‘global turn’ has been making the rounds this month, and deservedly so. Bell’s article reviews Emily Rosenberg’s 2012 edited volume A World Connecting: 1870-1945.  Nestled within it, however, is a much larger critique of the global historiographical shift toward ‘networks’ and ‘globalization’.
Bell’s criticisms are provocative. They are eloquent.