Writing the History of the Global

The British Academy and The Global History and Culture Centre University of Warwick
21.05.2009 - 22.05.2009
Riello, Giorgio

2009 marks a period of approximately ten years of new historical writing which has recently come to be termed 'global history'. Debates over 'globalization' and paradigms such as the 'great divergence' stimulated historians in many specialisms to think about the historical formation of these phenomena. Just how unique, how distinctive, is our current condition of an intense interlinking of economies and polities. We are now re-thinking our histories in relation to those of others in wider parts of the world.

Global history has challenged the old national histories and area studies. It is now stimulating a recasting of imperial history, and of Altantic world history. The 'global' in history-writing emerged from postmodernist and postcolonial directions where 'crossing boundaries' and 'beyond borders' joined to the aspirations of 'new imperial history' and to comparative studies of the West and the East. Since this time many historians have pursued wider concepts of 'connectedness' or of 'cosmopolitanism' as these have developed in social theory. Many are now trying to move beyond unilateral comparisons contrasting Europe with China, or Europe with India - and are investigating linkages and interactions between world areas.

This conference provides an opportunity to set out what 'global' approaches to history mean to many of our major historians, how it has changed the questions they ask and the ways they do history. It raises the limitations and problems of this approach to history, but also opens out new perspectives. These histories also carry many limitations: they have been predominantly economic and political or histories of internationalism. They have not escaped the constraints of the 'big questions' and 'grand periodization' of issues like the 'rise of the West', the 'sources of the great divergence' or the 'crisis of empires'. They raise real questions of how we move from the global to the local, and the methods by which we carry out our research. There are serious questions of language and technical expertise.

The conference will bring together those who have written the major books and articles shifting parts of the historical discipline in this directions. Discussions arising form the conference connect with thinking about history in the wider community, from government policy on climate change, world poverty and global trade, as well as global integration and diversity. These issues are now major subjects conveyed to a wider public in international museum exhibitions, for example in the British Museum's First Emperor exhibition, the Royal Academy's The Ottomans exhibition, and before that the V&A'a Encounters exhibition.


Day 1

Welcome and Introduction

Maxine Berg (University of Warwick)

Nigel Thrift (Vice Chancellor, University of Warwick)

1. Interpretations: Ideas and the Making of Global History 

Chair: Patrick O’Brien (LSE)

Linda Colley (Princeton University) ‘Narratives in Global History’
Washbrook ( Trinity College, Cambridge) ‘Problems in Global history’

Jan de Vries ( University of California, Berkeley),
‘Revolutions in Global History’

Discussant: Christopher Bayly (Cambridge University)

2. Approaches: Methods and Methodologies in Global History

Chair: David Arnold (University of Warwick)

Sanjay Subrahmanyam (UCLA)
‘Connectedness and Global History’

Prasannan Parthasarathi ( Boston College),
‘Comparisons in Global History’

R.Bin Wong (UCLA)
‘Regions and Global History’

Discussant: Jean-Fréderic Schaub (EHESS, Paris)

3. The Arts and Global History

Chair: Luca Molá (University of Warwick)

Tim Brook (Chinese Studies, Oxford University)
‘Collecting and Consuming in China and Europe'

Craig Clunas (History of Art, Oxford University)
‘Global Arts: Comparing and Connecting’

J D Hill (The British Museum)
'World Museums and Global Arts'

Discussants: Glenn Adamson (V&A)

Giorgio Riello (University of Warwick)

Day 2

4. Dynamics and Concepts: Shaping Global History

William Gervase
Clarence Smith (SOAS)

Ken Pomeranz (University of California Irvine),
‘Divergence in Global History’

Jan Luiten Van Zanden (Utrecht University),
‘Convergence in Global History’

Jack Goldstone (George Mason University),
‘Efflorescence in Global History’

Discussant: Kaoru Sugihara (Kyoto University)

5. Knowledge and Global History

Chair: Maxine Berg (University of Warwick)

Dr Simon Schaffer (Cambridge University)
‘Enlightened Knowledge and Global Pathways’

Dagmar Schäfer (Max Planck Institute, Berlin)
‘Innovative Technologies and China : Ming/Qing Dynasties

Kapil Raj, (EHESS, Paris)
‘Knowledge interchange and Colonial Cities’

Dr. Lissa Roberts (University of Twente)

6. Round Table 

Chair: Anner Gerritson (University of Warwick)

Participants for Round Table Day 1 and Day 2

Sevket Pamuk (LSE and Bogaziçi University, Turkey);
John Darwin (Oxford University);
Diogo Ramada Curto (University of Lisbon and UCL);
Billy K L So (The Chinese University of Hong Kong);
Peer Vries (University of Vienna);
Megan Vaughan (Cambridge University)


British Academy
10 Carlton House Terrace
London SW1

Writing the History of the Global, 21.05.2009 – 22.05.2009 London, in: Connections. A Journal for Historians and Area Specialists, 06.03.2009, <www.connections.clio-online.net/event/id/termine-11017>.
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