A Global Approach

Above is a map constructed from memory showcasing trends and shifts related to global imperialism. I ask students to construct maps noting trends impacting various regions. Hence, causation is essential here.

I “highly” believe in global history; better yet, I think its importance has become transformative to the point of reshaping how historians study and teach history. Universities are shifting towards a more global approach ot teaching World History; however, this has not been an easy transition. I have conducted a number of seminars and, most recently at St. Edward’s University, presented a paper on the significance of teaching a true world history course. The challenge for teachers are many when it comes to thinking like a World Historian. At both the high school and university level, too many instructors were educated as regional specialist. Thus, making it difficult to move beyond their realm of historical relevancy to that of peripheral states. World history is the story of connections within the global human community. The world historian’s work is to portray the crossing of boundaries and linking of systems in the human past. [1]

I am leading a weeklong academic instituted in July on the processes of global history at Rice University. My key objective to the many teachers that will be attending is getting them to move beyond Europe. This is a challenge. I have seen courses entitled world history, yet they are taught as a European history course with some minor conversations about Africa and Asia. Still, such courses fail to address the global historiography that explains issues involving migration, demography, race, conflict, and identity. This is easy to do when looking at a regional studies course, but trying to globalize this is complex.


[1] See Patrick Manning’s Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past. Published by Palgrave Macmillan, 2003.

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3 thoughts on “A Global Approach

  1. Eddie,
    Did you mean to say “east” in the sentence “this has not been an east transition?” If it was a typo, its a funny (and somewhat ironic) one.

    I’ll be shifting from Western Civ to World Civ for the Fall. The entire dept. is abandoning Western Civ. The problem with that? Most textbooks are terrible representations of World History and, frankly, many professors and GAs have little formal background in World Civ because it is just now being taught to Freshmen/Sophomores in College. Thus the field has a number of autodidactic scholars running around spouting World Civ nonsense, many times attempting to graft Asia/Africa onto what would otherwise be a Western Civ class.

    I look forward to the transition personally, but I abhor the thought of untrained or undertrained professors teaching about a very delicate (and still embryonic) subject.

    If we aren’t careful, we will kill World Civilization in the cradle by making it too utopian or too focused on positive cultural interaction. The sad truth is (one exposed by your image above) that 90% of interactions between the world’s cultures have been violent, exploitative or aggressive. Not that I condone or tacitly accept such actions, but I believe said interactions should flavor World History with the darker, more somber (and dystopian) tone that it deserves. I cannot stand World CIV textbooks that make history seem too positivist and whiggish.

    I’ll call you this week if things settle down– we’ve been in a hiring binge as of late (replacing four historians in the department= lots and lots of meetings!)

    Jeff

  2. Jeff: I have been waiting to hear from you. Please call so that we can catch up. I would love to travel to that conference you will be at. AS for your comments:

    1.) I do not think we should move away from European history courses. There is way too much wealth of perspective and depth that can only be studied in said course. Think of the rich intellectual and social historical trends that define the course. I do fear that you will have folks teaching a course in an incorrect fashion.

    There are a number of great readers and traditional texts that approach world history in an global fashion. Look at the footnote I left; you need to add that work to your library; I think this is a work all historians should read, regardless of area.

    Oh, thanks for pointing out the typo.

  3. I just put your book recommendation on my amazon wish list to be purchased soon.

    I remember reading ‘Millennium’ by Felipe Fernandez-Armesto which takes a look at the last thousand years all over the world. It’s so fascinating to recognize the connections that your picture above shows that are evident throughout all of history – positive and negative.

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