World History

World History

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Encyclopedia
World History, Global History or Transnational history (not to be confused with Diplomatic or International History) is a field of historical study
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 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
Comparative history
Comparative history is the comparison of different societies which existed during the same time period or shared similar cultural conditions. The comparative history of societies emerged as an important specialty among intellectuals in the Enlightenment in the 18th century, as typified by...

, which like world history, deals with the history of multiple cultures and nations, but does not do so on a global scale.

Overview


World History looks for common pattern
Pattern
A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects.These elements repeat in a predictable manner...

s that emerge across all cultures. World historians use a thematic
Theme (literature)
A theme is a broad, message, or moral of a story. The message may be about life, society, or human nature. Themes often explore timeless and universal ideas and are almost always implied rather than stated explicitly. Along with plot, character,...

 approach, with two major focal points: integration
Syncretism
Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs, often while melding practices of various schools of thought. The term means "combining", but see below for the origin of the word...

 (how processes of world history have drawn people of the world together) and difference (how pattern
Pattern
A pattern, from the French patron, is a type of theme of recurring events or objects, sometimes referred to as elements of a set of objects.These elements repeat in a predictable manner...

s of world history reveal the diversity of the human experience).

The study of world history is in some ways a product of the current period of accelerated globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

.

Organization


The advent of World History as a distinct field of study was heralded in the 1980s by the creation of the World History Association  and of graduate programs at a handful of universities. Over the past 20 years, scholarly publications, professional and academic organizations, and graduate programs in World History have proliferated, although the WHA is still predominantly an American phenomenon. It has become an increasingly popular approach to teaching history in American high schools and colleges. Many new textbooks are being published with a World History approach.

The World History Association publishes the Journal of World History every quarter since 1990. 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 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.

Ancient


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 historian.

In Ancient China, Chinese world history, that of China and the surrounding people of East Asia
East Asia
East Asia or Eastern Asia is a subregion of Asia that can be defined in either geographical or cultural terms...

, was based on the dynastic cycle
Dynastic cycle
Dynastic cycle is an important political theory in Chinese history. According to this theory, every dynasty goes through a culture cycle.-The cycle:The dynastic cycle appears as it follows:...

 articulated by Sima Qian
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

 in circa 100 BC. Sima Qian's model is based on the Mandate of Heaven
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. It is similar to the European concept of the divine right of kings, in that both sought to legitimaze rule from divine approval; however, unlike the divine right of kings, the Mandate of...

. 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
Dynastic cycle
Dynastic cycle is an important political theory in Chinese history. According to this theory, every dynasty goes through a culture cycle.-The cycle:The dynastic cycle appears as it follows:...

 is no longer used for modern Chinese history.

In Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

, Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 (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
Thucydides
Thucydides was a Greek historian and author from Alimos. His History of the Peloponnesian War recounts the 5th century BC war between Sparta and Athens to the year 411 BC...

 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
Ibn Khaldun
Ibn Khaldūn or Ibn Khaldoun was an Arab Tunisian historiographer and historian who is often viewed as one of the forerunners of modern historiography, sociology and economics...

 (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 religioun traditionalism, leaving them unprepared to advise national leaders on how to confront the European intrusion into Asia after 1500.

Early modern


During the Renaissance
Renaissance
The Renaissance was a cultural movement that spanned roughly the 14th to the 17th century, beginning in Italy in the Late Middle Ages and later spreading to the rest of Europe. The term is also used more loosely to refer to the historical era, but since the changes of the Renaissance were not...

 in Europe, history was written about states or nations. The study of history changed during the Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

 and Romanticism
Romanticism
Romanticism was an artistic, literary and intellectual movement that originated in the second half of the 18th century in Europe, and gained strength in reaction to the Industrial Revolution...

. Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

 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
Giambattista Vico
Giovanni Battista ' Vico or Vigo was an Italian political philosopher, rhetorician, historian, and jurist....

 (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
Oswald Spengler
Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West , published in 1918, which puts forth a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations...

). 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
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, 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 highest stage of world development.

Contemporary


World history became a popular genre in the 19th century with universal history
Universal history
Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...

.

In the 1920s several best-sellers dealt with the history of the world, including surveys The Story of Mankind
The Story of Mankind
The Story of Mankind was written and illustrated by American journalist, professor, and author Hendrik Willem van Loon and published in 1921...

 (1921) by Hendrik Willem van Loon
Hendrik Willem van Loon
Hendrik Willem van Loon was a Dutch-American historian and journalist.-Life:He was born in Rotterdam, the son of Hendrik Willem van Loon and Elisabeth Johanna Hanken. He went to the United States in 1902 to study at Cornell University, receiving his degree in 1905...

 and The Outline of History
The Outline of History
The Outline of History, subtitled either "The Whole Story of Man" or "Being a Plain History of Life and Mankind", is a book by H. G. Wells published in 1919...

 (1918) by H.G. Wells.

Influential writers who have reached wide audiences include H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games...

, Oswald Spengler
Oswald Spengler
Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West , published in 1918, which puts forth a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations...

, Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

, Pitirim Sorokin
Pitirim Sorokin
Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin was a Russian-American sociologist born in Komi . Academic and political activist in Russia, he emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1923. He founded the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. He was a vocal opponent of Talcott Parsons' theories...

, Christopher Dawson
Christopher Dawson
Christopher Henry Dawson was a British independent scholar, who wrote many books on cultural history and Christendom. Christopher H. Dawson has been called "the greatest English-speaking Catholic historian of the twentieth century".-Life:...

, and Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford
Lewis Mumford was an American historian, philosopher of technology, and influential literary critic. Particularly noted for his study of cities and urban architecture, he had a broad career as a writer...

. Scholars working the field include Eric Voegelin
Eric Voegelin
Eric Voegelin, born Erich Hermann Wilhelm Vögelin, was a German-born American political philosopher. He was born in Cologne, then Imperial Germany, and educated in political science at the University of Vienna. He became a teacher and then an associate professor of political science at the...

, William H. McNeill
William H. McNeill
William Hardy McNeill is an American world historian and author and is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1947.-Biography:...

 and Michael Mann
Michael Mann (sociologist)
Michael Mann is a British-born professor of Sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles and Visiting Research Professor at Queen's University Belfast. Mann holds dual British and US citizenships. He received his B.A. in Modern History from the University of Oxford in 1963 and his...

.

Spengler's
Oswald Spengler
Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West , published in 1918, which puts forth a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations...

 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
Arnold J. Toynbee
Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

 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
Sima Qian
Sima Qian was a Prefect of the Grand Scribes of the Han Dynasty. He is regarded as the father of Chinese historiography for his highly praised work, Records of the Grand Historian , a "Jizhuanti"-style general history of China, covering more than two thousand years from the Yellow Emperor to...

, 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 gleefully picked apart his mistakes.,

McNeill
William H. McNeill
William Hardy McNeill is an American world historian and author and is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1947.-Biography:...

 wrote The Rise of the West (1965) 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 globe. 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 used to describe these areas of interaction differ from one world historian to another and include "world-system" and "ecumene." But whatever it is called, the importance of these intercultural contacts has begun to be recognized by many scholars.

Academic historians, who increasingly specialize and demand the use of primary sources, tend to disparage scholarship in world history as attempting the impossible.

United States


In college curricula of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

, world history became a popular replacement for courses on Western Civilization, beginning in the 1970s. Professors Patrick Manning (Professor)
Patrick Manning (Professor)
Patrick Manning is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also president of the World History Network, Inc., a nonprofit corporation fostering research in world history...

, previously of Northeastern University and now at the University of Pittsburgh's World History Center; and Ross E. Dunn
Ross E. Dunn
Ross E. Dunn is an American historian and writer, the author of several books including The Adventures of Ibn Battuta, and coauthor of the highly cited History on Trial: Culture Wars and the Teaching of the Past...

 at San Diego State are leaders in promoting innovative teaching methods. The U.S. National Standards for teaching history were developed by the National Center for History in the Schools
National Center for History in the Schools
National Center for History in the Schools is most known for the development of the National History Standards and Historical Thinking Standards used throughout the United States...

, based in UCLA and directed by historian, Gary Nash.

Recent themes


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.

Histories have traditionally been written from the perspective of national governments or of geographically based communities. However, it is also possible to see world history as the story of a single human civilization developing new institutions and forms of expression over successive periods of time. World history can thus be a “creation story” to tell how the world of human society developed. In this mode, the story would include not only political and diplomatic history but also events relating to religion, commerce, education, and entertainment. Technologies of communication would have an important role in this history.

World historians

  • Christopher Bayly's The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, 1780–1914 (London, 2004)
  • Francis Fukuyama
    Francis Fukuyama
    Yoshihiro Francis Fukuyama is an American political scientist, political economist, and author. He is a Senior Fellow at the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford. Before that he served as a professor and director of the International Development program at the School of...

     (1952– ) The End of History and the Last Man (1992)
  • Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
    Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

     (1770–1830, philosopher of world history
  • William McGaughey's Five Epochs of Civilization (2000).
  • William H. McNeill
    William H. McNeill
    William Hardy McNeill is an American world historian and author and is Professor Emeritus of History at the University of Chicago, where he has taught since 1947.-Biography:...

     (born 1917); see especially The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
    The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community
    The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community is a popular work by Canadian historian William H. McNeill...

     (1963)
  • Patrick Manning
    Patrick Manning (Professor)
    Patrick Manning is the Andrew W. Mellon Professor of World History at the University of Pittsburgh. He is also president of the World History Network, Inc., a nonprofit corporation fostering research in world history...

    , Navigating World History: Historians Create a Global Past (2003)
  • Pitirim Sorokin
    Pitirim Sorokin
    Pitirim Alexandrovich Sorokin was a Russian-American sociologist born in Komi . Academic and political activist in Russia, he emigrated from Russia to the United States in 1923. He founded the Department of Sociology at Harvard University. He was a vocal opponent of Talcott Parsons' theories...

     (1889–1968), Russian-American macrosociology; Social and Cultural Dynamics (4 vol., 1937–41)
  • Oswald Spengler
    Oswald Spengler
    Oswald Manuel Arnold Gottfried Spengler was a German historian and philosopher whose interests also included mathematics, science, and art. He is best known for his book The Decline of the West , published in 1918, which puts forth a cyclical theory of the rise and decline of civilizations...

    , German; Decline of the West (1918–22)
  • Arnold J. Toynbee
    Arnold J. Toynbee
    Arnold Joseph Toynbee CH was a British historian whose twelve-volume analysis of the rise and fall of civilizations, A Study of History, 1934–1961, was a synthesis of world history, a metahistory based on universal rhythms of rise, flowering and decline, which examined history from a global...

    , British; A Study of History (1934–61); see especially A Study of History
    A Study of History
    A Study of History is the 12-volume magnum opus of British historian Arnold J. Toynbee, finished in 1961, in which the author traces the development and decay of all of the major world civilizations in the historical record...

    .
  • Eric Voegelin
    Eric Voegelin
    Eric Voegelin, born Erich Hermann Wilhelm Vögelin, was a German-born American political philosopher. He was born in Cologne, then Imperial Germany, and educated in political science at the University of Vienna. He became a teacher and then an associate professor of political science at the...

     (1901–1985) Order and History (1956–85)
  • Immanuel Wallerstein
    Immanuel Wallerstein
    Immanuel Maurice Wallerstein is a US sociologist, historical social scientist, and world-systems analyst...

    , world systems; leftist but not Marxist
  • Lev Gumilev
    Lev Gumilev
    Lev Nikolayevich Gumilev , was a Soviet historian, ethnologist and anthropologist. His unorthodox ideas on the birth and death of ethnic groups have given rise to the political and cultural movement known as "Neo-Eurasianism".-Life:His parents were two prominent poets Nikolay Gumilev and Anna...

    , Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere of Earth (1978)

Primary sources


See also

  • Big History
    Big History
    Big History is a field of historical study that examines history on large scales across long time frames through a multidisciplinary approach, focusing on both the history of the non-human world and on major adaptations and alterations in the human experience...

  • Guns, Germs and Steel
  • Historic recurrence
    Historic recurrence
    Historic recurrence is the repetition of similar events in history. In the extreme, the concept hypothetically assumes the form of the Doctrine of Eternal Recurrence, which has been written about in various forms since antiquity and was described in the 19th century by Heinrich Heine and Friedrich...

  • Universal history
    Universal history
    Universal history is basic to the Western tradition of historiography, especially the Abrahamic wellspring of that tradition. Simply stated, universal history is the presentation of the history of humankind as a whole, as a coherent unit.-Ancient authors:...

  • Natural history
    Natural history
    Natural history is the scientific research of plants or animals, leaning more towards observational rather than experimental methods of study, and encompasses more research published in magazines than in academic journals. Grouped among the natural sciences, natural history is the systematic study...

  • World development
    World Development
    World Development is a multi-disciplinary scientific journal of development studies, published monthly....

  • Political history of the world
    Political history of the world
    The political history of the world is the history of the various political entities created by the human race throughout their existence and the way these states define their borders...

  • Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s
    Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s
    Modern Times: A History of the World from the 1920s to the 1980s is a book by British journalist and writer Paul Johnson, which attempts to be an outline of world history during the 20th century from the author's perspective.-Chapters:...


External links