World history, global history or transnational history (not to be confused with diplomatic or international history) is a field of historical study that emerged as a distinct academic field in the 1980s. It examines history from a global perspective. It is not to be confused with comparative history, which, like world history, deals with the history of multiple cultures and nations, but does not do so on a global scale.
World history looks for common patterns that emerge across all cultures. World historians use a thematic approach, with two major focal points: integration (how processes of world history have drawn people of the world together) and difference (how patterns of world history reveal the diversity of the human experiences).
Establishment of the field
The advent of world history as a distinct academic field of study can be traced to 1980s, and was heralded by the creation of the World History Association and graduate programs at a handful of universities. Over the next decades scholarly publications, professional and academic organizations, and graduate programs in world history proliferated. World History has often displaced Western Civilization in the required curriculum of American high schools and universities, and is supported by new textbooks with a world history approach.
- The H-World discussion list serves as a network of communication among practitioners of world history, with discussions among scholars, announcements, syllabi, bibliographies and book reviews.
- The International Society for the Comparative Study of Civilizations (ISCSC) approaches world history from the standpoint of comparative civilizations. Founded at a conference in 1961 in Salzburg, Austria, that was attended by Othmar Anderlie, Pitirim Sorokin, and Arnold J. Toynbee, this is an international association of scholars that publishes a journal, Comparative Civilization Review, and hosts an annual meeting in cities around the world.
- The Journal of World History has been published quarterly by the World History Association since 1990.
- World History Association (WHA) - Established in the 1980s, the WHA is predominantly an American phenomenon.
The study of world history, as distinct from national history, has existed in many world cultures. However, early forms of world history were not truly global, and were limited to only the regions known by the historian.
In Ancient China, Chinese world history, that of China and the surrounding people of East Asia, was based on the dynastic cycle articulated by Sima Qian in circa 100 BC. Sima Qian's model is based on the Mandate of Heaven. Rulers rise when they united China, then are overthrown when a ruling dynasty became corrupt. Each new dynasty begins virtuous and strong, but then decays, provoking the transfer of Heaven's mandate to a new ruler. The test of virtue in a new dynasty is success in being obeyed by China and neighboring barbarians. After 2000 years Sima Qian's model still dominates scholarship, although the dynastic cycle is no longer used for modern Chinese history.
In Ancient Greece, Herodotus (5th century BC), as founder of Greek historiography, presents insightful and lively discussions of the customs, geography, and history of Mediterranean peoples, particularly the Egyptians. However, his great rival Thucydides promptly discarded Herodotus's all-embracing approach to history, offering instead a more precise, sharply focused monograph, dealing not with vast empires over the centuries but with 27 years of war between Athens and Sparta. In Rome, the vast, patriotic history of Rome by Livy (59 BC-17 AD) approximated Herodotean inclusiveness; Polybius (c.200-c.118 BC) aspired to combine the logical rigor of Thucydides with the scope of Herodotus.
In Central Asia, The Secret History of Mongols is regarded as the single significant native Mongolian account of Genghis Khan. The Secret History is regarded as a piece of classic literature in both Mongolia and the rest of the world.
In the Middle East, Ala'iddin Ata-Malik Juvayni (1226–1283) was a Persian historian who wrote an account of the Mongol Empire entitled Ta' rīkh-i jahān-gushā (History of the World Conqueror). The standard edition of Juvayni is published under the title Ta' rīkh-i jahān-gushā, ed. Mirza Muhammad Qazwini, 3 vol, Gibb Memorial Series 16 (Leiden and London, 1912–37). An English translation by John Andrew Boyle "The History of the World-Conqueror" was republished in 1997.
Rashīd al-Dīn Fadhl-allāh Hamadānī (1247–1318), was a Persian physician of Jewish origin, polymathic writer and historian, who wrote an enormous Islamic history, the Jami al-Tawarikh, in the Persian language, often considered a landmark in intercultural historiography and a key document on the Ilkhanids (13th and 14th century). His encyclopedic knowledge of a wide range of cultures from Mongolia to China to the Steppes of Central Eurasia to Persia, the Arab lands, and Europe, provide the most direct access to information on the late Mongol era. His descriptions also highlight the manner in which the Mongol Empire and its emphasis on trade resulted in an atmosphere of cultural and religious exchange and intellectual ferment, resulting in the transmission of a host of ideas from East to West and vice versa.
One Arab scholar, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1409) broke with traditionalism and offered a model of historical change in Muqaddimah, an exposition of the methodology of scientific history. Ibn Khaldun focused on the reasons for the rise and fall of civilization, arguing that the causes of change are to be sought in the economic and social structure of society. His work was largely ignored in the Muslim world. Otherwise the Muslim, Chinese and Indian intellectuals held fast to a religious traditionalism, leaving them unprepared to advise national leaders on how to confront the European intrusion into Asia after 1500.
During the Renaissance in Europe, history was written about states or nations. The study of history changed during the Enlightenment and Romanticism. Voltaire described the history of certain ages that he considered important, rather than describing events in chronological order. History became an independent discipline. It was not called philosophia historiae anymore, but merely history (historia).
Giambattista Vico (1668–1744) in Italy wrote Scienza nuova seconda (The New Science) in 1725, which argued history as the expression of human will and deeds. He thought that men are historical entities and that human nature changes over time. Each epoch should be seen as a whole in which all aspects of culture—art, religion, philosophy, politics, and economics—are interrelated (a point developed later by Oswald Spengler). Vico showed that myth, poetry, and art are entry points to discovering the true spirit of a culture. Vico outlined a conception of historical development in which great cultures, like Rome, undergo cycles of growth and decline. His ideas were out of fashion during the Enlightenment, but influenced the Romantic historians after 1800.
A major theoretical foundation for world history was given by German philosopher G. W. F. Hegel, who saw the modern Prussian state as the latest (though often confused with the highest) stage of world development.
World history became a popular genre in the 20th century with universal history.
Influential writers who have reached wide audiences include H. G. Wells, Oswald Spengler, Arnold J. Toynbee, Pitirim Sorokin, Carroll Quigley, Christopher Dawson, and Lewis Mumford. Scholars working the field include Eric Voegelin, William Hardy McNeill and Michael Mann.
Spengler's Decline of the West (2 vol 1919–1922) compared nine organic cultures: Egyptian (3400 BC-1200 BC), Indian (1500 BC-1100 BC), Chinese (1300 BC-AD 200), Classical (1100 BC-400 BC), Byzantine (AD 300–1100), Aztec (AD 1300–1500), Arabian (AD 300–1250), Mayan (AD 600–960), and Western (AD 900–1900). His book was a smashing success among intellectuals worldwide as it predicted the disintegration of European and American civilization after a violent "age of Caesarism," arguing by detailed analogies with other civilizations. It deepened the post-World War I pessimism in Europe, and was warmly received by intellectuals in China, India, and Latin America who hoped his predictions of the collapse of European empires would soon come true.
In 1936–1954, Toynbee's ten-volume A Study of History came out in three separate installments. He followed Spengler in taking a comparative topical approach to independent civilizations. Toynbee said they displayed striking parallels in their origin, growth, and decay. Toynbee rejected Spengler's biological model of civilizations as organisms with a typical life span of 1,000 years. Like Sima Qian, Toynbee explained decline as due to their moral failure. Many readers rejoiced in his implication (in vols. 1–6) that only a return to some form of Catholicism could halt the breakdown of western civilization which began with the Reformation. Volumes 7–10, published in 1954, abandoned the religious message, and his popular audience slipped away, while scholars picked apart his mistakes.,
McNeill wrote The Rise of the West (1963) to improve upon Toynbee by showing how the separate civilizations of Eurasia interacted from the very beginning of their history, borrowing critical skills from one another, and thus precipitating still further change as adjustment between traditional old and borrowed new knowledge and practice became necessary. McNeill took a broad approach organized around the interactions of peoples across the Earth. Such interactions have become both more numerous and more continual and substantial in recent times. Before about 1500, the network of communication between cultures was that of Eurasia. The term for these areas of interaction differ from one world historian to another and include world-system and ecumene. Whatever it is called, the importance of these intercultural contacts has begun to be recognized by many scholars.
In college curricula of the United States, world history became a popular replacement for courses on Western Civilization, beginning in the 1970s. Professors Patrick Manning, previously of Northeastern University and now at the University of Pittsburgh's World History Center; and Ross E. Dunn at San Diego State are leaders in promoting innovative teaching methods.
In schools of architecture in the U.S., the National Architectural Accrediting Board now requires that schools teach history that includes a non-west or global perspective. This reflects a decade-long effort to move past the standard Euro-centric approach that had dominated the field.
In recent years, the relationship between African and world history has shifted rapidly from one of antipathy to one of engagement and synthesis. Reynolds (2007) surveys the relationship between African and world histories, with an emphasis on the tension between the area studies paradigm and the growing world-history emphasis on connections and exchange across regional boundaries. A closer examination of recent exchanges and debates over the merits of this exchange is also featured. Reynolds sees the relationship between African and world history as a measure of the changing nature of historical inquiry over the past century.
Marxian theory of history
The Marxist theory of historical materialism claims the history of the world is fundamentally determined by the material conditions at any given time – in other words, the relationships which people have with each other in order to fulfil basic needs such as feeding, clothing and housing themselves and their families. Overall, Marx and Engels claimed to have identified five successive stages of the development of these material conditions in Western Europe.
The theory divides the history of the world into the following periods: Primitive communism; Slave society; Feudalism; Capitalism; and Socialism. Marx argued that the system was ironclad, and all of the stages were essential and inevitable.
Regna Darnell and Frederic Gleach argue that, in the Soviet Union, the Marxian theory of history was the only accepted orthodoxy, and stifled research into other schools of thought on history. However, adherents of Marx's theories argue that Stalin's distortions of Marxism cannot be attributed to flaws in Marxian theoretics itself.
- Christopher Bayly, The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, 1780–1914 (London, 2004)
- Jerry Bentley, (1949-2012) Founder and editor of the Journal of World History
- Philip D. Curtin (1922-2009), The World and the West: The European Challenge and the Overseas Response in the Age of Empire. (2000) 308 pp. ISBN 978-0-521-77135-1. online review
- Christopher Dawson (1889-1970) Religion and the Rise of Western Culture (1950) excerpt and text search
- Will Durant (1885-1981) and Ariel Durant (1898-1981); Story of Civilization(1935-1975).
- Francis Fukuyama (1952– ) The End of History and the Last Man (1992)
- Peter Haugen, professor of the University of Wisconsin; writer of World History for Dummies
- Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel (1770–1830), philosopher of world history
- Patrick Manning, Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (2003)
- William Hardy McNeill (born 1917); see especially The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963)
- Robert McNeill and William H. McNeill. The Human Web: A Bird's-Eye View of World History (2003) excerpt and text search
- Jürgen Osterhammel, The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (2014) excerpt
- Carroll Quigley (1910-1977), The Evolution of Civilizations (1961), Tragedy and Hope: A History of the World in Our Time (1966), Weapons Systems and Political Stability: A History (1983)
- Pitirim Sorokin (1889–1968), Russian-American macrosociology; Social and Cultural Dynamics (4 vol., 1937–41)
- Oswald Spengler (1880-1936), German; Decline of the West (1918–22) vol 1 online; vol 2 online; excerpt and text search, abridged edition
- Peter Stearns, (1936- ) USA; World History in Brief: Major Patterns of Change and Continuity, 7th ed. (2009); Encyclopedia of World History, 6th ed. (200pp)
- Luc-Normand Tellier, Canadian; Urban World History, PUQ, (2009), 650 pages; online edition
- Arnold J. Toynbee, British; A Study of History (1934–61); see especially A Study of History.
- Eric Voegelin (1901–1985) Order and History (1956–85)
- Immanuel Wallerstein, world systems; leftist but not Marxist
Surveys of world history
- Bayly, Christopher Alan. The birth of the modern world, 1780-1914: global connections and comparisons (Blackwell, 2004)
- Bullet, Richard et al., The Earth and Its Peoples 6th ed. 2 vol, 2014), university textbook
- Duiker, William J. Duiker and Jackson J. Spielvogel. World History (2 vol 2006), university textbook
- Gombrich, Ernst. A Little History of the World (1936 & 1995)
- Grenville, J.A.S. A History of the World: From the 20th to the 21st Century (2005)
- McKay, John P. and Bennett D. Hill. A History of World Societies (2 vol. 2011), university textbook
- McNeill, William H. A World History (1998), University textbook
- McNeill, William H., Jerry H. Bentley, and David Christian, eds. Berkshire Encyclopedia Of World History (5 vol 2005)
- Osterhammel, Jürgen. The Transformation of the World: A Global History of the Nineteenth Century (Princeton University Press, 2014), 1167pp
- Paine, Lincoln. The sea and civilization: a maritime history of the world (Knopf, 2013). Pp. xxxv+ 744. 72 illustrations, 17 maps. excerpt
- Roberts, J. M. and O. A. Westad. The History of the World (2013)
- Rosenberg, Emily, et al. eds. A World Connecting: 1870-1945 (2012)
- Stearns, Peter N. ed. Oxford Encyclopedia of the Modern World: 1750 to the Present (8 vol. 2008)
- Stearns, Peter N. The Industrial Revolution in World History (1998) online edition
- Szulc, Tad. Then and Now: How the World Has Changed since W.W. II. (1990). 515 p. ISBN 0-688-07558-4; Popular history
- Tignor, Robert, et al. Worlds Together, Worlds Apart: A History of the World (4th ed, 2 vol. 2013), University textbook
- Watt, D. C., Frank Spencer, Neville Brown. A History of the World in the Twentieth Century (1967)
- Barraclough, Geoffrey, ed. The Times Atlas of World History (1979).
- Heywood, John. Atlas of World History (1997).
- Kinder, Gary. The Anchor Atlas of World History (2 vol. 1974).
- O'Brian, Patrick. Atlas of World History (2010). excerpt
- Santon, Kate, and Liz McKay, eds. Atlas of World History (2005).
- Adas, Michael. Essays on Twentieth-Century History (2010); historiographic essays on world history conceptualizing the "long" 20th century, from the 1870s to the early 2000s.
- Bentley, Jerry H., ed. The Oxford Handbook of World History (Oxford University Press, 2011)
- Bentley, Jerry H. Shapes of World History in Twentieth Century Scholarship. Essays on Global and Comparative History Series. (1996)
- Costello, Paul. World Historians and Their Goals: Twentieth-Century Answers to Modernism (1993).
- Curtin, Philip D. "Depth, Span, and Relevance," The American Historical Review, Vol. 89, No. 1 (Feb., 1984), pp. 1–9 in JSTOR
- Dunn, Ross E., ed. The New World History: A Teacher's Companion. (2000). 607pp. ISBN 978-0-312-18327-1 online review
- Frye, Northrop. "Spengler Revisited" in Northrop Frye on modern culture (2003), pp 297–382, first published 1974; online
- Hare, J. Laurence, and Jack Wells. "Promising the World: Surveys, Curricula, and the Challenge of Global History," History Teacher, 48 (Feb. 2015) pp: 371-88.
- Hughes-Warrington, Marnie. Palgrave Advances in World Histories (2005), 256pp, articles by scholars
- Lang, Michael. "Globalization and Global History in Toynbee," Journal of World History 22#4 Dec. 2011 pp. 747–783 in project MUSE
- McInnes, Neil. "The Great Doomsayer: Oswald Spengler Reconsidered." National Interest 1997 (48): 65–76. ISSN 0884-9382 Fulltext: Ebsco
- McNeill, William H. "The Changing Shape of World History." History and Theory 1995 34(2): 8–26. ISSN 0018-2656 in JSTOR
- Manning, Patrick. Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (2003), an important guide to the entire field excerpt and text search; online review
- Mazlish, Bruce. "Comparing Global History to World History," Journal of Interdisciplinary History, Vol. 28, No. 3 (Winter, 1998), pp. 385–395 in JSTOR
- National Center for History in the Schools at UCLA. World History: The Big Eras, A Compact History of Humankind (2009), 96pp
- Neiberg, Michael S. Warfare in World History (2001) online edition
- O'Brien, Patrick K., ed. Atlas of World History. (2002)
- Patel, Klaus Kiran: Transnational History, European History Online, Mainz: Institute of European History(2011) retrieved: November 11, 2011.
- Richards, Michael D. Revolutions in World History (2003) online edition
- Roupp, Heidi, ed. Teaching World History: A Resource Book. (1997), 274pp; online edition
- Sachsenmaier, Dominic, "Global Perspectives on Global History" (2011), Cambridge UP
- Smil, Vaclav. Energy in World History (1994) online edition
- Tellier, Luc-Normand. Urban World History (2009), PUQ, 650 pages; online edition
- Zhukov, E. M., et al. "Theoretical Problems of the World Historical Process." (1979).
- Watts, Sheldon. Disease and Medicine in World History (2003) online edition
- Peter Gran (28 February 2009). The Rise of the Rich: A New View of Modern World History. Syracuse University Press. p. XVI. ISBN 978-0-8156-3171-2. Retrieved 25 May 2012.
- see H-World
- see JWH Website
- History Association - Mission
- Sima Qian, Records of the Grand Historian: Qin Dynasty (3rd ed. 1995) excerpt and text search; Burton Watson, Ssu-ma Ch'ien: Grand Historian of China (1958)
- S. Y. Teng, "Chinese Historiography in the Last Fifty Years," The Far Eastern Quarterly, Vol. 8, No. 2 (Feb., 1949), pp. 131–156 in JSTOR
- K.H. Waters, Herodotus the Historian (1985)
- Patrick G. Walsh, Livy: His Historical Aims and Methods (1961)
- Frank W. Walbank, A Historical Commentary on Polybius, (3 vols. 1957–82)
- History of the World Conqueror by Ala Ad Din Ata Malik Juvaini, translated by John Andrew Boyle, Harvard University Press 1958, Project Gutenberg on line edition
- Elliot, H. M. (Henry Miers), Sir; John Dowson. "10. Jámi'u-t Tawáríkh, of Rashid-al-Din". The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period (Vol 3.). London : Trübner & Co.. https://archive.org/stream/cu31924073036737#page/n15/mode/2up.
- Ibn Khaldun, The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History ed. by N. J. Dawood, Bruce Lawrence, and Franz Rosenthal (2004) excerpt and text search
- Bradley J. Birzer, Sanctifying the World: The Augustinian Life and Mind of Christopher Dawson (2007)
- Michael P. Federici, Eric Voegelin: The Restoration of Order (2002)
- Michael Mann, The Sources of Social Power: Volume 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 (1986) excerpt and text search
- Neil McInnes, "The Great Doomsayer: Oswald Spengler Reconsidered." National Interest 1997 (48): 65–76. Fulltext: Ebsco
- William H. McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee a Life (1989)
- William H. McNeill, "The Changing Shape of World History." History and Theory 1995 34(2): 8–26.
- Patrick Manning, Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (2003); Ross E. Dunn, ed., The New World History: A Teacher's Companion. (2000).
- See Points 8 and 9. http://www.naab.org/adaview.aspx?pageid=120
- Jonathan T. Reynolds, "Africa and World History: from Antipathy to Synergy." History Compass 2007 5(6): 1998–2013. ISSN 1478-0542 Fulltext: [1. History Compass]
- See, in particular, Marx and Engels, The German Ideology
- Marx makes no claim to have produced a master key to history. Historical materialism is not "an historico-philosophic theory of the marche generale imposed by fate upon every people, whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself" (Marx, Karl: Letter to editor of the Russian paper Otetchestvennye Zapiskym, 1877). His ideas, he explains, are based on a concrete study of the actual conditions that pertained in Europe.
- Marx, Early writings, Penguin, 1975, p. 426.
- Charles Taylor, “Critical Notice”, Canadian Journal of Philosophy 10 (1980), p. 330.
- Marx and Engels, The Critique of the Gotha Programme
- Marx and Engels, The Civil War in France
- Gewirth, Alan (1998). The Community of Rights (2 ed.). University of Chicago Press. p. 168. ISBN 9780226288819. Retrieved 2012-12-29.
Marxists sometimes distinguish between 'personal property' and 'private property,' the former consisting in consumer goods directly used by the owner, while the latter is private ownership of the major means of production.
- Regna Darnell; Frederic Gleach (2007). Histories of Anthropology Annual. U of Nebraska Press. p. 56.
- See revised edition
- see Philosophy of History
- See excerpt
- See McNeill, The Pursuit of Truth: A Historian's Memoir (2005)
- B. V. Johnston, Pitirim A. Sorokin an Intellectual Biography (1995)
- William H. McNeill, Arnold J. Toynbee: A Life (1990)
- Jeffrey C. Herndon, Eric Voegelin and the Problem of Christian Political Order (2007) excerpt and text search
- Professional groups
- World History Association
- Bridging World History
- H-World The H-World discussion list
- CLIOH-WORLD CLIOH-WORLD: European Erasmus Network about researching, teaching and learning world history
- Student Handouts, Inc. Free World History Lesson Plans, Handouts, and Worksheets
- Our World In Data—Web publication by Max Roser (from the University of Oxford) that visualises how living standards around the world have changed historically. Makes data available and covers a wide range of topics: Historical trends in health, food provision, the growth and distribution of incomes, violence, rights, wars, energy use, education, environmental changes and many other aspects are empirically analysed and visualised in this open access web publication.
- World History Matters
- The TimeMap of World History - World History Atlas
- World History For Us All – (Christian) World History Model Curriculum
- Erik Ringmar, History of International Relations Open Textbook Project, Cambridge: Open Book, forthcoming.
- EDSITEment's World History vetted websites and lesson plans EDSITEment, "The Best of the Humanities on the Web"