Cover Page


Notes on Contributors


Discussion of Part I: Past Histories

Discussion of Part II: Modern Histories

Discussion of Part III: Histories beyond the Nation and Profession

Whither the Global?

PART I: Premodern Historical Thought

CHAPTER ONE: History as a Way of Remembering the Past

CHAPTER TWO: Classical Chinese Historical Thought

The Mandate of Heaven and the Dynastic Cycle

The Historian as Sage


The Beginning of Imperial Historiography

Sima Qian

Ban Gu

Millenarian Visions

Empires as Dynasties

Sima Guang


CHAPTER THREE: The Romance of the Middle Ages

Official Histories

Tokushi yoron and the Presence of the Past

The Problem of Historical Distance

Achieving Historical Distance

Bridging the Gap

CHAPTER FOUR: Buddhist Worlds


Time, Decline, and Periodization


Into the Modern Period

CHAPTER FIVE: Premodern Arabic/Islamic Historical Writing


Mapping the Tradition


The Ninth and Tenth Centuries

The Age of the Great Chronicles

Reflections on History

The Problem of Authenticity


CHAPTER SIX: Ottoman Historical Thought

The Ottoman Empire

The Theory of History

Time and Genre

Agency and Morality

The Historian’s Craft

CHAPTER SEVEN: “Premodern” Pasts

CHAPTER EIGHT: History, Exile, and Counter-History

The Complexity of the Term “Jewish Historiography”

Exile and History

Exile and the Jewish-Christian Polemics

Exilic Jews and the Question of History

The Modern Writing of Jewish History

PART II: Historiographies

CHAPTER NINE: The Legacy of Greece and Rome

Conceptions of Temporality and “the Past”

What Should History Be?

Genres of Historical Writing

The Purpose of Historiography


CHAPTER TEN: America and Global Historical Thought in the Early Modern Period

CHAPTER ELEVEN: European Societies and their Norms in the Process of Expansion

Expansion and Political Modernity: Chronological Discordances

1492: Convenient Date or Obstructive Symbol?

European Norms and the Colonial Atlantic

Universality and Processes of Racialization

CHAPTER TWELVE: The Global in Enlightenment Historical Thought

Philosophical and Commercial, or Comparative and Connective, Histories

Global History’s Moral Purpose

Universalism and European Exceptionalism

CHAPTER THIRTEEN: Hegel, Marx, and World History



CHAPTER FOURTEEN: The World of Modern Japanese Historiography

From Meiji to the Early Showa Precipice

The American Occupation and Postwar High-Growth Years

History in Japan from the 1980s: The East Asia Factor

CHAPTER FIFTEEN: Critical Theories of Modernity

Hegel’s Legacy and His Critique of Romanticism

Franz Rosenzweig: Rethinking Judaism Beyond Modernity

Lukács: Capitalism as Modernity

Benjamin: The Romantic Critique of Modernity Meets Marxism

Japanese Critics of Modernity in the 1930s and 1940s: Nishida Kitarō and Miki Kiyoshi


CHAPTER SIXTEEN: On the Compatibility of Chinese and European History

Fifty Years of Methodological Discussions on Facts and Theories among Chinese Historians

Mao Zedong Thought and the Problem of Relating Facts and Theory


CHAPTER SEVENTEEN: Modern Historiography in Southeast Asia

Premodern Stories of the Ahistorical Past in Southeast Asia

The Birth of Modern History in Siam

The Misleading Royal-Nationalist History of Thailand

Final Remarks

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN: Historical Thought in the Other America

Vistas from the Vice of Origins

Vistas from the Momentous Nineteenth Century


CHAPTER NINETEEN: Histories of History in South Asia

The Politics of Time

Historical Thought and Its Transformations

History and Its Limits

CHAPTER TWENTY: Modern Historiography – Arab World

CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE: The Burden of Peculiarity: History and Historical Thought in Africa






PART III: Historiographies


CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE: Environmental History and World History

Origins: North America and South Asia

Environmental History in Europe

Colonial Impacts and Postcolonial Literatures

Issues of Temporal Scale and Continuity: China as Oddity and Model

World Environmental History and Contemporary Crises: Is “the Big Picture” Possible? Useful?

Three Syntheses and Their Limits

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR: Dependency Theory and World-Systems Analysis

CHAPTER TWENTY-FIVE: Empires and Imperialism

Classical and Pre-Capitalist Empires

The Historical Legacy of Imperial Rome

Historical Interpretations of Modern Empire

Historiography of Modern Imperialism

Empires and Imperialism in the Twentieth Century


CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX: Histories of Globalization(s)

Globalization: Method or Topic?

Early Modern Globality

Nineteenth-Century Globality



CHAPTER TWENTY-SEVEN: Comparative History and Its Critics

I. The Evolution of Comparative Historiography: An Imperial Genealogy

II. Connected History and the Historicist Critique of Comparison

III. Historicism, Neo-Historicism and the False Dichotomy between Nomothetic and Idiographic Sciences

IV. The Post-WWII Configuration of American Social Science and the Stabilization of the Comparative Method

V. Critical Realism and Bourdieusian Theory: Retheorizing Comparative History


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT: Women, Gender, and the Global

Productions of Women within the Global

Conflicting Representations of Women within the Global

The History of Writing Women into the Global

The History of Women and Global Capitalism

The History of Sexuality and the Global


CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE: Indigenes and Settlers (Fourth World)


The “Tide of History”

No “Wind of Change”


CHAPTER THIRTY: History, Memory, Justice

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE: Beyond the Nation


1. History Textbooks as Shapers of Collective National Identities

2. International Attempts at Conflict Resolution through Textbook Revision

3. The Dethroning of Nation: The Disintegration of Hegemonic Narrative

4. Globalization, Global Memory Culture, and Textbooks




This series provides sophisticated and authoritative overviews of the scholarship that has shaped our current understanding of the past. Defined by theme, period and/or region, each volume comprises between twenty-five and forty concise essays written by individual scholars within their area of specialization. The aim of each contribution is to synthesize the current state of scholarship from a variety of historical perspectives and to provide a statement on where the field is heading. The essays are written in a clear, provocative, and lively manner, designed for an international audience of scholars, students, and general readers.


A Companion to Roman Britain
Edited by Malcolm Todd

A Companion to Britain in the Later Middle Ages
Edited by S. H. Rigby

A Companion to Tudor Britain
Edited by Robert Tittler and Norman Jones

A Companion to Stuart Britain
Edited by Barry Coward

A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Britain
Edited by H. T. Dickinson

A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Britain
Edited by Chris Williams

A Companion to Early Twentieth-Century Britain
Edited by Chris Wrigley

A Companion to Contemporary Britain
Edited by Paul Addison and Harriet Jones

A Companion to the Early Middle Ages: Britain and Ireland c.500-c.1100
Edited by Pauline Stafford


A Companion to Europe 1900–1945
Edited by Gordon Martel

A Companion to Eighteenth-Century Europe
Edited by Peter H. Wilson

A Companion to Nineteenth-Century Europe
Edited by Stefan Berger

A Companion to the Worlds of the Renaissance
Edited by Guido Ruggiero

A Companion to the Reformation World
Edited by R. Po-chia Hsia

A Companion to Europe Since 1945
Edited by Klaus Larres

A Companion to the Medieval World
Edited by Carol Lansing and Edward D. English

A Companion to the French Revolution
Edited by Peter McPhee


A Companion to Western Historical Thought
Edited by Lloyd Kramer and Sarah Maza

A Companion to Gender History
Edited by Teresa A. Meade and Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks

A Companion to the History of the Middle East
Edited by Youssef M. Choueiri

A Companion to Japanese History
Edited by William M. Tsutsui

A Companion to International History 1900–2001
Edited by Gordon Martel

A Companion to Latin American History
Edited by Thomas Holloway

A Companion to Russian History
Edited by Abbott Gleason

A Companion to World War I
Edited by John Horne

A Companion to Mexican History and Culture
Edited by William H. Beezley

A Companion to World History
Edited by Douglas Northrop

A Companion to Global Environmental History
Edited by J. R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin

A Companion to World War II
Edited by Thomas W. Zeiler, with Daniel M. DuBois

A Companion to Global Historical Thought
Edited by Prasenjit Duara, Viren Murthy and Andrew Sartori

Notes on Contributors

Prathama Banerjee is a historian and a fellow at the Centre for Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), Delhi. She currently works on histories of the political in modern and contemporary India. She is interested in intellectual and conceptual histories as well as in political theory and literature. She is the author of The Politics of Time: ‘Primitives’ and History-Writing in Colonial Bengal (2002). Two of her recent essays are “Thinking equality: Debates in Bengal, 1870–1940,” in Gyan Pandey, ed., Subalternity and Difference (2011), and “Chanaky/Kautilya: History, theatre, politics in 20th century Bengal,” Journal of the History of the Present, 2 (1) (2012).

Prasenjit Duara is the Raffles Professor of Humanities and Director, Asia Research Institute as well as Director of Research in Humanities and Social Sciences at National University of Singapore. He was previously Professor and Chair of the Dept of History and of the Committee on Chinese Studies at the University of Chicago. In 1988, he published Culture, Power and the State: Rural North China, 1900–1942, which won the Fairbank Prize of the AHA and the Levenson Prize of the AAS, USA.

Andreas Eckert is Professor of African history at Humboldt University. Since October 2009, he also directs the International Research Institute on “Work and Human Life Course in Global History,” funded by the German Federal Ministry of Science and Research. He has been visiting professor at Indiana University (Bloomington), Harvard University, the University of Michigan, the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme (Paris) and Fellow at the Freiburg Institute of Advanced Study (FRIAS). He has published widely on the history of Africa in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, on the history of colonialism, and on the history of global labor.

Curtis Anderson Gayle is an Associate Professor in the Faculty of Integrated Arts and Social Sciences at Japan Women’s University, Tokyo. He has published Marxist History and Postwar Japanese Nationalism (2002) and Women’s History and Local Community in Postwar Japan (2011). He is currently working on a manuscript entitled “Re-imagining Globalization: Alternative Japanese views of the World from 1945 to Today.”

Gottfried Hagen took his doctorate from Freie Universität Berlin, and has been teaching Turkish Studies at the University of Michigan since 2000. He has published widely on Ottoman intellectual history, asking how Ottomans perceived and interpreted the world, and their place in it in time and space.

Ian Harris is Visiting Professor of Buddhist Studies, King’s College London and President of the UK Association of Buddhist Studies. He has also held positions at the Universities of Oxford, Toronto, and British Columbia, the National University of Singapore, and Dongguk University, Seoul. His most recent books are Cambodian Buddhism: History and Practice (2005), Buddhism in a Dark Age: Cambodian Monks under the Khmer Rouge (2012), and an edited volume entitled Buddhism, Power and Politics in Southeast Asia (2007).

Freyja Cox Jensen currently holds the position of Lecturer in Early Modern British History at the University of Exeter, and was previously a Junior Research Fellow at Christ Church, Oxford. She specializes in the reception of the classics in early modern Britain and Europe; her first monograph, Reading the Roman Republic in Early Modern England, was published in 2012.

Thomas Keirstead teaches Japanese history and historiography in the Department of East Asian Studies at the University of Toronto. Trained as a medievalist, he has also written on early modern and modern conceptions of the past as it appears in a variety of genres, including film, anime, and historical fiction.

Tarif Khalidi was educated at University College, Oxford, and the University of Chicago. He is currently Shaykh Zayid Professor of Arabic & Islamic Studies, American University of Beirut, and was formerly Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic and Fellow of King’s College, Cambridge. His recent publications include: Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period (1994), The Muslim Jesus (2001), The Qur’an, A New Translation (2008), and Images of Muhammad (2009).

Karen Ordahl Kupperman, PhD Cantab, is Silver Professor of History Emerita at New York University. She is the author of The Jamestown Project (2007) and The Atlantic in World History (2012). Among her awards are the AHA Prize in Atlantic History and the AHA’s Beveridge Prize.

Michael Lang is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Maine, where he teaches intellectual history, historiography, and international affairs. His research focuses on modern European conceptions of global order.

Ethan L. Menchinger is a PhD candidate in Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan. His research and publications focus on the early modern Ottoman Empire, with special interest in historical writing, knowledge transmission, and intellectual life. He also translates.

Viren Murthy teaches transnational Asian History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and researches Chinese and Japanese intellectual history. He is the author of The Political Philosophy of Zhang Taiyan: The Resistance of Consciousness (2011) and is currently working on a project tentatively entitled: Imagining Asia: Takeuchi Yoshimi and the Conundrums of Asian Modernity.

Klaus Neumann is a trained historian and Professor of History at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne, Australia. He is currently working on two projects: one concerned with forced migration, and the other with historical justice. Relevant publications include, among others, Shifting Memories: The Nazi Past in the New Germany (2000).

Rosalind O’Hanlon, MA, PhD, is Professor of Indian History and Culture in the Faculty of Oriental Studies, Oxford. Her research interests lie in the social and intellectual history of early modern and colonial India. Her recent publications include Religious Cultures in Early Modern India: New Perspectives (2011, edited with David Washbrook) and numerous articles.

Ravi Arvind Palat is Professor of Sociology at the State University of New York at Binghamton and has previously taught Asian Studies at the University of Hawaii at Manoa and Sociology at the University of Auckland. He works in the broadly defined fields of historical sociology and political economy. He is the author of Capitalist Restructuring and the Pacific Rim and is currently completing a book titled Princes, Paddyfields, and Bazaars: Wet-Rice Cultivation and the Emergence of the Indian Ocean World-System, 1250–1650.

Michael Pearson is Emeritus Professor of History at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. Among his recent books are Port Cities and Intruders: The Swahili Coast, India, and Portugal in the Early Modern Era (1998, paperback edition, 2003); The Indian Ocean (2003, paperback 2008); The World of the Indian Ocean, 1500–1800: Studies in Economic, Social and Cultural History (2005); he is also co-editor, with Pamila Gupta and Isabel Hofmeyr, of Eyes Across the Water: Navigating the Indian Ocean (2010).

Jennifer Pitts is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Chicago and author of A Turn to Empire: The Rise of Imperial Liberalism in Britain and France (2005). Her current research explores European debates over legal relations with non-European societies during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Kenneth Pomeranz is University Professor of History at the University of Chicago, and President of the American Historical Association. His publications include The Great Divergence: China, Europe, and the Making of the Modern World Economy and The Making of a Hinterland: State, Society and Economy in Inland North China, 1853–1937.

Michael Puett is the Walter C. Klein Professor of Chinese History in the Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations and the Chair of the Committee on the Study of Religion at Harvard University. He is the author of The Ambivalence of Creation: Debates Concerning Innovation and Artifice in Early China and To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice, and Self-Divinization in Early China, as well as the co-author, with Adam Seligman, Robert Weller, and Bennett Simon, of Ritual and its Consequences: An Essay on the Limits of Sincerity.

Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin is a Professor in the Department of Jewish History at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. Among his publications are The Censor, the Editor, and the Text: Catholic Censorship and the Shaping of the Jewish Canon in the Sixteenth Century (2007) and Exil et souveraineté: judaïsme, sionisme et pensée binationale. Preface de Carlo Ginzburg (2007).

Andrew Sartori is Associate Professor of History at NYU. He is the author of Bengal in Global Concept History, and the co-editor of Global Intellectual History and From the Colonial to the Postcolonial. He is also an editor of the journal Critical Historical Studies.

Jean-Frédéric Schaub teaches at the EHESS (Paris) and CHAM (Lisbon). His books include: Edited with O. Remaud and I. Thireau, Faire des sciences sociales. Comparer (2012); L’Europe a-t-elle une histoire? (2008); Oroonoko, prince et esclave (2008); Ed. with J.C. Garavaglia, Lois, justice, coutumes. Amériques et Europe latines (2005); La France espagnole (2003); Portugal na Monarquia Hispânica (2001); Le Portugal au temps d’Olivares (2001); Les juifs du roi d’Espagne (1999).

Professor Hanna Schissler is retired and lives in Berlin, Germany. She was head of the research area “Globalization” at the Georg Eckert Institute for International Textbook Research in Braunschweig, Germany. She taught at the Universities of Minnesota, Twin Cities, Vienna, Hannover (Germany), at New York University and Central European University in Budapest.

Bonnie G. Smith is Board of Governors Professor of History at Rutgers University. She is the author and co-author of books in women’s and world history and historiography, including Crossroads and Cultures: A History of the World’s Peoples, The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History, and The Gender of History.

George Steinmetz is the Charles Tilly Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan. He published The Devil’s Handwriting: Precoloniality and the German Colonial State in Qingdao, Samoa, and Southwest Africa (2007), and edited Sociology and Empire (2013). Currently he is completing a study of sociologists’ involvement in the British and French empires.

Mauricio Tenorio-Trillo is Professor of History, The University of Chicago; profesor afiliado División de Historia, CIDE, Mexico City. His recent books include: Culturas y memòria (2012) and I Speak of the City”: Mexico City, 1880–1930 (2013).

Romila Thapar has researched and written on early Indian history, specializing in social and cultural history and historiography. Her latest book is The Past Before Us: Historical Traditions of Early North India (2013). She is Professor Emerita of History at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi.

Lorenzo Veracini is Associate Professor and Australian Research Council Queen Elizabeth II Fellow at the Swinburne Institute for Social Research, Melbourne, Australia. His research focuses on the comparative history of colonial systems and settler colonialism. He has authored Israel and Settler Society (2006) and Settler Colonialism: A Theoretical Overview (2010). Lorenzo is managing editor of Settler Colonial Studies.

Susanne Weigelin-Schwiedrzik (PhD 1982, Ruhr University Bochum) is a Professor of Chinese Studies and Vice Rector for Research and Career Development at the University of Vienna. She has published on twentieth-century Chinese history and historiography and is currently completing a book on East Asia in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. She has also published articles on memory issues related to the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution.

Alexis Wick is Assistant Professor of History at the American University of Beirut. He obtained his PhD from Columbia University. His research deals with the history of the sea and the history of the Ottoman and Arab world.

Thongchai Winichakul is Professor of Southeast Asian History at University of Wisconsin-Madison and author of Siam Mapped: A History of the Geo-Body of a Nation (1994).


Over the past 20 years, the idea of the global has become widely and even feverishly acceptable in the humanities and social sciences. As a result of the many different angles and approaches, the concept may have produced more confusion than light. Among our most important tasks in this introduction is to outline how thinking on a global scale might be significant for our understanding of history, and to clarify how the concept of the global is used in relation to historical thought.

The global is a concept that brings together space and time, such that global spatiality implies global history and vice versa. We might first conclude that global is a spatial concept. From a simplistic historical perspective, the world was made up of different areas, which gradually became interconnected to produce the globe as we know it. However, much of the Eurasian world has been interconnected since the emergence of agriculture and cities, with no transition from areas being distinct to areas becoming connected. We are dealing with space as it is already mediated by wider historical processes. Different spaces, of course, continued to produce distinctive historical processes and traditions; indeed, it would not be possible to identify different spaces independently of these processes. The importance of the spatial perspective lies in grasping the changing nature of connections and distinctive processes – including assertions of distinctiveness by representatives of the traditions – over time. This kind of global–spatial–temporal perspective poses challenges and opportunities for our understanding of history.

Specifically, we should also note that the global can change what we mean by history, because it constantly forces us to rethink the scope of history beyond traditional boundaries such as the nation-state. To grasp this problematic, we need to distinguish between two interrelated meanings of history. R.G. Collingwood told us a long time ago that the notion of history embodies two senses of the term. On the one hand, it refers to change in the world through events and processes – or what we might call the “eventing of the world.” On the other, history refers to the recording of, or historical inscriptions of, those events and processes. The content and structure of this volume express both of these ideas of history. As we have seen above, to the extent that space is temporal, it already implies a notion of change and process.

The second type of history is, of course, essential because it is our primary means of access to process and time. Much of the content of this volume deals with the second aspect of history, namely how people gave shape to time through narrative around the world. Different parts of the globe at various times possessed different conceptions of the past and of the goals and course of worldly life. Indeed, outside the history profession today, many groups also view the purpose and goals of history quite differently from the profession. But the globe is more than the sum of its parts. The structure of this volume, with its distinctions between premodern and modern, suggests that large historical processes, including the global expansion of capitalism and the establishment of nation-states, change the way in which history was and is narrated. Some of the chapters deal with this theme explicitly. The chapters on world-systems theory, Hegel and Marx, critics of modernity, and empire, for example, look at ways to understand this processual dimension of global history and outline, as it were, the conditions for various specific historical narratives based on historical inscriptions. Part III perhaps deals most reflectively with this dialectic between historical processes and historical narrative, but the same dialectic is at work in Part II on modern historiography and in Part I, where we discuss how the contributors to this volume view premodern historical thought and representations of the past.

Discussion of Part I: Past Histories

We begin the volume with a discussion of premodern historical thought written by one of the most distinguished historians of the ancient world, Romila Thapar, whose specialty is the ancient history of India or the Indic world. Thapar’s essay confronts many of the problems highlighted in the modern expectation of history as a kind of evidentiary database for secular, empirical, evidential, and human-centered histories. It is becoming increasingly accepted that few historical sources, primary or secondary, in the premodern period were written with such objectivism in mind.

Even though there are those who would consider great figures such as Thucydides in ancient Greece or Sima Qian of the Chinese Han dynasty as fundamentally evidential historians, others are persuaded that they understood the past in profoundly different ways than modern historians. According to Zachary Schiffman (2011), the very idea of the past as something different, indeed “dead,” and subject, as it were (according to Michel de Certeau 1988), to laboratory analysis does not really appear until the late eighteenth century in Europe. In premodern histories, the past is episodic, and even when causal relationships are seen, they are often deemed to be illustrative of a universal principle that is eternally present. It is the reason why the past can be seen to serve as the moral guide to the present and future. Modern historians, in contrast, evaluate past events in their contemporary spatial and relational context and regard their archival remains in another time as “anachronisms” or sources to interpret the past.

In this context, ancient India has typically been thought of as having been among the most notoriously ahistorical or anti-historical, along with Jewish thought, discussed in this volume by Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin. Thapar seeks to re-evaluate this condition by delving into both general and contextually specific ways in which the past was represented. These ways were obviously not tailor-made to match modern historians’ need for objective knowledge. Nor were there professional historians in the modern sense. Rather, the need to record the past was concerned with such varied goals as the practical problems of recording property claims, genealogical claims to legitimate power by kings and lords, and cosmological goals, often dealing with astronomical events and movements, as well as the need for scribal professions and religious elites to affirm or deny the role of mundane events according to their own self-interests.

Thapar explains that people could believe that India did not possess historical consciousness, despite having a vast textual and inscriptional base, for two reasons. First, it was in the interests of the modern British colonizers to show that India was a stagnant Oriental society which remained frozen in time. Second, those in quest of Indian history looked for it in the dominant classical texts, which were concerned with cosmological issues, and not in the places where they might have found it: in the lesser Puranic traditions, temple endowments, guild agreements, land grants and other royal inscriptions, and, most of all, in the writings of Buddhist and Jain communities whose representatives had either disappeared or become localized by the eighteenth century. Rosalind O’Hanlon’s essay in this volume, about a later period in South Asian history, points to ways in which contemporary historians have learned how to sift out historical details embedded in, or intertwined with, other genres of writing.

In ancient China, the powerful centralizing imperial tradition that appeared from the early third century BCE displayed a different type of relationship between the universalist cosmological vision of time and the role of human agency in steering the course of mundane time. Chinese universalism, principally expressed in moral terms, was represented as the return to the Golden Age of the sage-kings of ancient China who ruled the world according to the principles of Heaven. According to much modern historiography, this view was responsible for the conservatism of the Confucian order from which Chinese radicals had to make a fundamental break in modern times. Yet, as Michael Puett demonstrates in his essay, the advent of the imperial state in the third century BCE marked a fundamental and defiant break with this vision of the ideal moral order. The Qin emperor defied the Mandate of Heaven and proposed to set up his own dynasty and moral order for all eternity, and sparked an institutional revolution that forever changed the face of Chinese political institutions. Nonetheless, he and his advisors could not fully suppress the prevalent cosmological ideas or the ideology and interests connected with them. The dominant trend of imperial Chinese historiography returned to the cosmological ideal of Heaven’s mandate and moral guidance of the Golden Age. Puett’s essay also has the virtue of showing us how there was a plurality of ways of thinking of the past and history, especially in popular society in early China.

As is well known, Japan was deeply influenced by imperial Chinese ideas of the polity until the eighteenth century. Thomas Keirstead, whose exploration of historical ideas in premodern Japan follows Puett’s essay, adopts a creative approach by surveying the ways in which historians from the early modern or Tokugawa Japan both followed the older Confucian-influenced models of historical writing and also broke from this model in subtle but profound ways in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Official historians of this era documented the achievements of the government and served up moral exemplars from history as the mirror for princes to govern according to the will of Heaven and with benevolence toward their people. Others such as Ueda Akinari represent a new trend in Tokugawa times to represent the past as indeed bygone and very different from the present. In this context, the moral examples of the past may well have been quite irrelevant since the present was so radically different. One of the ways in which Ueda and these more popular historical writers indexed the pastness of the past was by evoking the earlier times as a spectral presence, populated by ghosts and spaces haunted by the dead.

Ian Harris examines Buddhist views of the past. Albeit through the different schools of Theravada and Mahayana, Buddhism dominated much of East, Southeast, and South Asia, even though it had disappeared from its Indian homeland as early as the eleventh century CE. Buddhism is unusual among premodern religious views because in theory it does not fundamentally depend on any belief in God or even in universals. It is a philosophy based on the impermanence of things in time and thus resembles in some ways the modern view of time. At the same time, it did possess a notion of liberation (moksha) from the world and in time came to accept the role of Boddhisattvas and gods as divine aides to such liberation. Moreover, Buddhism also inherited the Indic idea of great ages or cycles of time – of thousands of years – each of which has its own special characteristic, although the cycle tends toward overall deterioration of the condition of the world and the decline of the Dharma or the moral path or law.

Harris reveals that the idea of the temporal stages of the decline of the Dharma has the interesting effect of producing innovative strategies of liberation for the individual and collective. In premodern Japan and Myanmar, for example, these strategies and ideas often led to the assertion of the unique significance of Buddhism in these societies, which had developed ways to overcome some of the effects of the final stage of the Dharmic world (mappo in Japanese). Harris’s essay may be fruitfully read together with Thapar’s delineation of the different genres of representing the past in genealogies and in the context of sectarian competition.

Two of our contributions in Part I refer to historical thought and historiography in the Islamic worlds of the Arabs and Ottomans in Western Asia and North Africa. As in the other premodern societies, writing about the past in Islamic empires and polities was shaped by the universal and moral ideals representing the providence of God and his guidance of the world. As Tarif Khalidi and Gottfried Hagen and Ethan L. Menchinger show us, history as the fulfillment of divine purpose did not prevent the emergence of writings about the dynasty and the nations and peoples of the world in Islamic historiography. In the Arab world, there were histories of cities and tribes as well as attention to geography, genealogy, and chronicles, much of which reflected great concern with dating and accuracy. This fertile historiographical milieu culminated in the writings of the Tunisian Arab, Ibn Khaldun, who was among the most creative and influential historians of the premodern world. Ibn Khaldun sought to understand historical vicissitudes by linking them to an early sociology of organisms and solidarity in order to grasp the effects of human activity upon history. In all of these writings there is, of course, considerable attention to the divine ideals of justice and moral governance. The two were not ultimately separated; historical writing was also an attempt to uncover God’s design for humanity.

The extent to which there was a tension between universal ideals and practical history is perhaps best revealed in Ottoman historiography. The Ottoman Empire was one of the most powerful and long-lasting in Eurasia during the second millennium. Its historians often encountered the dilemma between prioritizing the moral goals of Islam and seeking to bolster the dynastic exceptionalism that would see the Ottoman dynasty as one made up of pious and virtuous monarchs which could last forever. Certainly the historical argument of the rise and fall of dynasties and communities developed by Ibn Khaldun was well known in the Ottoman Empire and it seemed to be as good an explanation as any of the crises it faced in the seventeenth century. But the gap between a moral and divine ideal and the all-too-human ambitions of the rulers also gave historians like Kātib Çelebi (1609–1657) the opportunity to plead for necessary reforms in the empire.

Rosalind O’Hanlon’s essay on South Asia’s “premodern” past furnishes us with an excellent link between earlier Indic traditions of representing the past and the Islamic historiographical tradition. She places their relationship in the context of the wider Eurasian upheavals associated with the irruption of central Asian steppe warriors into the Islamic heartlands. These events expanded the Muslim presence within the subcontinent, bringing Arabic, Ottoman, and Persian traditions into closer engagement with its already heterogeneous and multilayered literary landscape. The subcontinent’s new Muslim rulers and their advisors strove to define a role for Islam in their new lands and, for Muslim historians, history became the terrain of this contest. History was likewise the terrain on which scribal people from many other cultural traditions strove to comprehend and adapt to the new bureaucratic states emerging during the early modern centuries. O’Hanlon explores the new modes of historical writing associated with these people, and reviews recent efforts to explore the “texture” of these histories and to explain why they interwove historical facticity with cosmological and other goals and with concepts of time.

We have mentioned how historical Jewish culture is regarded as relatively inattentive to the history of the Jews in comparison to its sacred writings. Amnon Raz-Krakotzkin attributes this situation to the consciousness of exile, which dominated Jewish communities after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE as they dispersed beyond their erstwhile kingdom. For these communities, true history ends with the end of the Temple. The revelations in the Torah – or what came to be called by Christians the “Old Testament’ – became the source of truth of the world and their condition. Raz-Krakotzkin suggests that to the extent that there was a Christian notion of progress in linear historical terms, it was premised upon the superiority of revelation in the New Testament over the Old. This attitude also reinforced the Jewish stance of meaningful history having ended with the first revelation. Even when modern Jewish historiography became dominant among Jewish intellectuals and people from the nineteenth century onward, radical Jewish intellectuals like Walter Benjamin continued the critique of linear, progressive history by adapting the Jewish prophetic and messianic tradition to enable a counter-history of the oppressed multitudes in world history.

Thus Part I illuminates several dimensions of the different understandings and role of history in the premodern world – different, that is, both from modern historiography and from each other. But the premodern world appears to be relatively unified by the idea that the history of the mundane world was in an important way subordinate to, or a reflection of, a universal principle of God, Heaven, or Dharma. The very idea of the past as representing moral ideals and guides for the present was dependent on the universal principle. Of course, there were important exceptions, as for instance when the Qin emperor declared that he was superior to the previous sages (and did not mention Heaven), or if we regard Buddhism as an entirely atheistic religion. Even so, the views of the Qin emperor and the historian Sima Qian were subsequently reversed and deities and sacred principles (of Dharma) became common in Buddhism and Buddhist societies.

It was nonetheless the case that evidentiary histories were also developed in premodern societies for various practical purposes. These purposes were frequently associated with the requirement for the veracity of records to enable the agrarian state to control the land, people, and other resources such as water. They were also necessary for competitive claims to the truth, whether for sectarian groups to claim evidence of their doctrinal authenticity or to demonstrate past relationships between clerics and royal power for their legitimacy. Local elites – like dynasties – sought to shore up their authority with genealogies and records of their achievements. Reliable records of astronomical movements and events – often connected to explanations of worldly events in the court – were important for court astronomers, mathematicians, astrologists, and so on. The concern for accuracy and objectivity was often driven by these practical requirements – requirements that we cannot assume will be immediately recognizable or familiar to us as modern readers.

Depending on the nature of the polity and culture, different regions of the world generated a different mix and intertwining of cosmological and practical representations of the past. We have seen a strong statist tradition in China pushing against the limits of the principle of Heaven; the necessity of reconciling salvation history to practical concerns in the Abrahamic traditions; and the importance of sectarian and local versions of history in India, among others. Yet these histories and even, in part at least, the universal ideals and principles of the premodern era did not develop in isolation from each other, as subsequent national histories often liked to assert. The work of anthropologists and world historians has shown us that in Eurasia and parts of Africa, goods, biological species (including diseases), ideas, and people have circulated since at least the Bronze Age and the emergence of agriculture and cities.

Discussion of Part II: Modern Histories

What is increasingly coming to be called a global early modern era from circa 1500 to 1800 CE, although still ill-defined, represents in some ways the intensification of this traffic as the technology of transportation and communication accelerated. Several scholars of the world-systems school (see Chapter 24), in particular, have also associated this accelerated circulation of traffic with the rise of capitalism as a global phenomenon. We will return to this topic. For the moment, let us reflect a little on this inchoate early modern era. Several of the authors in Part I have hinted at common or circulatory developments across Eurasia by the middle of the second millennium. O’Hanlon’s essay points to how ideas of history from the Arab, Ottoman, and Persian world are taken up in the South Asian or Indic milieu. Ibn Khaldun’s “sociological” history of the rise and fall of peoples and polities was influential across the Middle East and also in Europe where his work was also well known. In Tokugawa Japan, Confucian ideas of history reappeared and neo-Confucian ideas penetrated the samurai elite, while Buddhist ideas continued to circulate with the travels of Buddhist monks and scholars in Southeast Asia and in East Asia.

The question we may put forth at this juncture – although the answers would be too conjectural to be taken up in this volume – is to what extent an early modern approach to historical questions might have appeared. This era seems to have been overtaken by modern national histories before we have had a chance to grasp what other approaches to history – particularly in the relations between universal ideals and practical histories – could have developed. This question may have some value in considering the rise of the non-Western world in our time. Although we cannot cross the same stream a second time, or, in other words, we do not inhabit a timeless universe, this has not prevented collectives and groups of people from articulating a historical identity in relation to a suppressed past.

Attention to the temporal and spatial dimensions of the global permits us to see the specificity of the modern conception of history. The past has been important for most communities and political systems since time immemorial, but the idea of history as we have understood it in the past two hundred years or so is regarded by many historians as different from the ways in which the past was depicted earlier. The tradition of modern historical writing associated with Gibbon, Ranke, Michelet, and Macaulay identified the historian’s task as that of writing secular, empirical, evidential, and human-centered histories. The subject of these histories might be universal, imperial, communal, and, especially, national, but that they existed and occurred had to be evidentially corroborated.

Professional historians in our times are bound by these professional ethics and methodology. They have yielded an enormous output over the past century and expanded our understanding both of specific places, events, and people and of connected, circulatory, and relatively impersonal processes. As a result, we need to make another distinction in our coverage of historical thought, between historical representations by historical subjects, whether these are individual or collective entities, and historical understandings of processes undertaken by contemporary history professions. Part II: Historiographies deals principally with historical representations by historical actors whereas Part III: Global Histories and New Directions deals more with debates and interpretations among professional historians regarding relatively objective processes or methodologies in topics such as comparative histories. Of course, several of these process histories – such as empires and imperialism – have also generated representations of their pasts in distinctive ways, and these essays deal with both dimensions: the views of historical actors and of professional historians.

We begin Part II with historical writing in Western Europe before the Enlightenment. Freyja Cox Jensen probes the ways in which historical writing in the Classical era of Greece and Rome influenced Renaissance and early modern historians. She finds that while many of the genres and approaches to history were shaped by the classical texts, there were also significant differences. As we might expect from the theme developed above, the principal differences have to do with how the assumption that the past is not radically separate from the present, derived in part from the universalism of Christianity, increasingly gave way as Western Christendom fractured into multiple and competing sovereignties.

Jensen seeks to show how the concern with veracity, authenticity, and sources is part of an inheritance from Renaissance historiography. At the same time, she sees modern history as the latest evolution of the classical arts of oratory and rhetoric in the construction of stories. The ways of telling a story, the narrative form, the different perspectives and genres (including myth) are aspects of continuity in historical storytelling which continue today. Last but not least, histories began to be written during the Renaissance in order to build local identities, often around the goals of newly competitive states. These trends came gradually to feed into the writings of national histories that became so dominant in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

In the essays that follow Jensen’s, the focus is on epistemological ruptures within the framework of universal history. That is, Kupperman, Schaub, Pitts, and Sartori all discuss attempts to rethink received narratives that had claimed to be comprehensive in their embrace of human earthly existence, and that typically interpreted that story in terms of a fore-ordained telos