Cover Page


Maps, Figures, and Tables

Notes on Contributors

Editor’s Acknowledgments

INTRODUCTION: The Challenge of World History


CHAPTER ONE World History

From Disciplinary Exclusion to Limited Acceptance, circa Late 1800s to 1990

Influences, Resources, and Canon Formation, circa Late 1980s to 2011

Variations Now

Concluding Reflections

CHAPTER TWO Why and How I Became a World Historian

First Steps

A Growing Identification with Global History and World History

Engaged in a Field

Researching the world: techniques and methods

CHAPTER THREE Becoming a World Historian

Graduate Programs in World History

The Structure of Graduate Programs in World History

Placement: Where Do Graduate Students Trained in World History Find Jobs?


Appendix: World History Comprehensive Exam Reading List (Washington State University, 2010)

CHAPTER FOUR The World Is Your Archive?

CHAPTER FIVE What Are the Units of World History?

Comparison and Connection

Zones and Systems



Teaching the world: publics and pedagogies

CHAPTER SIX Meetings of World History and Public History

Defending History

Revisiting Public History

Two “Backward Hamlets”


CHAPTER SEVEN Challenges of Teaching and Learning World History

A Teaching Problem: Figuring Out the Story and Connections

Standards in World History

Figuring Out How Students See the Story and Make Connections

Meeting the Challenges

CHAPTER EIGHT Teaching World History at the College Level

Snapshot 1: World History Survey, University of New Orleans, 2000

Snapshot 2: World History for Graduate Students, San Francisco State University, 2006

Snapshot 3: Twentieth-Century World History Survey, University of Stellenbosch, 2008

Snapshot 4: The World and the West Seminar, San Francisco State University, 2010

World History as a Work in Progress

PART II Categories and Concepts


CHAPTER NINE Environments, Ecologies, and Cultures across Space and Time

Harnessing Energy

Scales of Alteration

Nature–Culture Interactions


The Meaning and Mechanisms of Interconnections

Comparative History of the Ancient World

The Verticality of Global History in the Ancient World


What Is Big History?

Why Study Big History?

How Old Is Big History?

When Did Academic Big History Emerge?

Who Is Doing Big History Today?

Different Approaches to Big History

Big History and Religious Views

Big History Research

The Future of Big History: Opportunities and Constraints

CHAPTER TWELVE Global Scale Analysis in Human History

Core/Periphery Hierarchy

Spatial Boundaries of World-Systems

World-System Cycles: Rise and Fall, and Pulsations

Modes of Accumulation

Patterns and Causes of Social Evolution

CHAPTER THIRTEEN Region in Global History

CHAPTER FOURTEEN Scales of a Local

A “Globalizing” World?

Conceptualizing the Local and the Global

Historicizing the Local and the Global

Local Case Studies: Ji’an and Jingdezhen


CHAPTER FIFTEEN Comparative History and the Challenge of the Grand Narrative

CHAPTER SIXTEEN The Science of Difference

From William Jones to Max Müller

The Bible and Darwin

The Failure of Race Science

Indo-Europeans/Aryans: Barbarians and Nomads

Aryans and Brahmans


CHAPTER EIGHTEEN The Body in/as World History

Acts of Relegation, Acts of Repositioning

Conclusion: The Body as World System?

CHAPTER NINETEEN Benchmarks of Globalization

What a History of the Present Can Do

The Time of the Global

Global Actors and Spaces of Action

Reframing the Global Condition


CHAPTER TWENTY Networks, Interactions, and Connective History

Material Culture

The Stranger-Effect


Peaceful Migration

War and Empire


Trade: Land Routes

Trade: Sea Routes


CHAPTER TWENTY-ONE Objects in Motion

The Silk Road

The Mongol World Empire

The Age of Exploration

The Industrial Age



Scale One, the Cosmos: Big History and Life on Earth

Scale Two, the Earth: Peopling the World

Scale Three, Modern Human Society: Globalizing Encounters and Migrations, 1500–1900

Scale Four, Microhistory and Biography: Individual Lifespans and Journeys

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE Religious Ideas in Motion

The Call for a Global Frame

Space and Beliefs in Motion

Networks of Carriers

Negotiations and Reverberations

New Spheres for Religion

CHAPTER TWENTY-FOUR Diseases in Motion

Introduction: Germs Don’t Travel Alone

Imported Epidemics and the Decimation of Native Americans

Moving Environments and Moving Germs: Malaria and Cholera

Diseases That Traveled without New Germs




Issues: Globalization

Issues: Problems of Analysis

Themes: Global Patterns of War

Themes: War and Society

Themes: War and Culture

PART III Many Globes

CHAPTER TWENTY-SIX The World from Oceania


CHAPTER TWENTY-EIGHT Historicizing the World in Northeast Asia

The Configuration of the National and the Global

From World History to National History

Overcoming Western History

Overcome by Western History

Decentering World History

CHAPTER TWENTY-NINE Writing Global History in Africa

Conversion, the Emergence of a New Cosmology and Self-Rewriting

Defining Africa’s Position in the World as Permanent Preoccupation

What the World Has Done to Africa

What Africa Has Done in the World

CHAPTER THIRTY Islamicate World Histories?

In the Wake of Defeat and Humiliation: Tortuous Dialogues with Orientalist Visions

Europe: Coveted Object of Desire, and of Alienation

Global Capitalism, Contested Western Hegemony, and New World Historical Visions

Can We Write World Histories That Are Genuinely “World Histories”?

CHAPTER THIRTY-ONE The World from Latin America and the Peripheries

Statement of the Problem

Proto-history: The Difference of the Partialities with Respect to the Center

History: Since the Formation of a Global Center and Periphery


CHAPTER THIRTY-TWO (Re)Writing World Histories in Europe

Toward a New Consensus

Carving Out an Institutional Home


Global Economics: International Trade and Business

Global Politics: International Relations and Comparative Politics

Global Anthropology: Ethnographies of the World

Global Texts: Comparative Literature and Worlds of Translation

Global Art: Aesthetics across Cultures

Many Globes: Seeing a World




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 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 American Revolution

Edited by Jack P. Greene and J. R. Pole

A Companion to 19th-Century America

Edited by William L. Barney

A Companion to the American South

Edited by John B. Boles

A Companion to American Indian History

Edited by Philip J. Deloria and Neal Salisbury

A Companion to American Women’s History

Edited by Nancy A. Hewitt

A Companion to Post-1945 America

Edited by Jean-Christophe Agnew and Roy Rosenzweig

A Companion to the Vietnam War

Edited by Marilyn B. Young and Robert Buzzanco

A Companion to Colonial America

Edited by Daniel Vickers

A Companion to American Foreign Relations

Edited by Robert D. Schulzinger

A Companion to 20th-Century America

Edited by Stephen J. Whitfield

A Companion to the American West

Edited by William Deverell

A Companion to the Civil War and Reconstruction

Edited by Lacy K. Ford

A Companion to American Technology

Edited by Carroll Pursell

A Companion to African-American History

Edited by Alton Hornsby, Jr

A Companion to American Immigration

Edited by Reed Ueda

A Companion to American Cultural History

Edited by Karen Halttunen

A Companion to California History

Edited by William Deverell and David Igler

A Companion to American Military History

Edited by James Bradford

A Companion to Los Angeles

Edited by William Deverell and Greg Hise

A Companion to American Environmental History

Edited by Douglas Cazaux Sackman

A Companion to Benjamin Franklin

Edited by David Waldstreicher


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 International History 1900–2001

Edited by Gordon Martel

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 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 Global Environmental History

Edited by J. R. McNeill and Erin Stewart Mauldin

A Companion to World History

Edited by Douglas Northrop

For further information on these and other titles in the series please visit our website at


For Sawyer and Jeremy, every day a new world

Maps, Figures, and Tables



Imagining a recentered globe: the Hobo-Dyer projection


Major sites in the Old Assyrian trading system


Jiangxi province in late imperial China


Central Asia and early Indo-European peoples


The Indian Ocean: wind and weather patterns, with trade routes


The Pacific: wind patterns and population movements


The Atlantic: wind patterns and trade routes


The silk roads, from ca. 200 BCE


Going global: European trade contacts in Africa and Asia, ca. 1700


Europeans in the Americas, ca. 1700


Oceania, with island groups and voyaging zones



An expert teacher’s concept map


A novice teacher’s concept map


Basic iteration model of world-system evolution


Temporary institutional shortcuts in the iteration model


Our world’s visual greeting: picturing humanity for the universe



Gross energy consumed by humans

Notes on Contributors

Michael Adas is the Abraham E. Voorhees Professor and Board of Governors’ Chair at Rutgers University. His teaching and research have centered on the comparative study of the impact of Western science and technology on European and American colonialism in Asia and Africa. His recent books include Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance and Dominance by Design: Technological Imperatives and America’s Civilizing Mission. Adas has also co-authored six editions of World Civilizations: The Global Experience. He is currently working on a comparison of the combat experience in World War I and Vietnam.

Robert B. Bain is Associate Professor of Education and History, and chair of the secondary teacher education program, at the University of Michigan. Bain earned his PhD in American social history at Case Western Reserve University. After working for years as a high-school social-studies teacher, he joined the faculty at Michigan, where his research and clinical work focuses on the translation of historical “habits of mind” into K-12 classrooms: how teachers and students can acquire the methods, approaches, and assumptions of disciplinary historians in teaching and learning. A former World History Association council member, most recently he is a co-designer and researcher in the Big History Project.

Charles Bright is Arthur J. Thurnau Professor and Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Residential College. In addition to his collaborative work with Michael Geyer over two decades on global history, he has worked on prison history, publishing The Powers That Punish: Prisons and Politics in the Era of the “Big House,” 1920–1955, and on the history of Detroit, doing oral histories and creative projects with theater groups in the city. The current essay is part of a book project (with Geyer), The Global Condition in the Long-Twentieth Century.

Antoinette Burton is Professor of History at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, where she is also Bastian Professor of Global and Transnational Studies. A historian of Victorian Britain, modern empire, Indian women, feminism and postcoloniality, she is the author most recently of A Primer for Teaching World History: Ten Design Principles (2012).

Christopher Chase-Dunn is a Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Research on World-Systems at the University of California, Riverside. He is the author of Rise and Demise: Comparing World-Systems (with Thomas D. Hall), The Wintu and Their Neighbors (with Kelly Mann), and The Spiral of Capitalism and Socialism (with Terry Boswell). He is founder and former editor of the Journal of World-Systems Research. Chase-Dunn is currently doing research on global party formation and antisystemic social movements. He also studies the rise and fall of settlements and polities since the Stone Age and global state formation.

Luke Clossey is Associate Professor in the Department of History of Simon Fraser University. His dissertation research won prizes from the World History Association and the Canadian Historical Association, and was published as Salvation and Globalization in the Early Jesuit Missions (2008). Now that he has finished fighting over punctuation with the co-authors of the essay included here, he can return to fieldwork preparatory to writing a history of the early modern global cult of Yeshua ben Miriam, a first-century Jewish messiah.

Eduardo Devés-Valdés (PhD, University of Leuven (Lovain), and a second PhD in Latin American Studies from the University of Paris III), a specialist in Latin American thought and thought in peripheral regions, is Professor of American Studies and coordinator of the Postdoctoral Studies Program at the University of Santiago, Chile. He has published more than 150 works, including El pensamiento africano sud-sahariano en sus conexiones y paralelos con el latinoamericano y el asiático, and has taught and researched at various locations across Latin America, Asia, Africa, Europe, and the United States.

Felipe Fernández-Armesto teaches at the University of Notre Dame. His books on global history include The World (2010), 1492 (2010), Pathfinders (2007), Civilizations (2000), and Millennium (1999).

Anne Gerritsen (PhD, Harvard) is Associate Professor of Chinese History at the University of Warwick. She works on topics that are local in scope, such as the history of the Jiangxi prefecture of Ji’an and ceramics manufacture in the Jiangxi town of Jingdezhen, as well as topics that are global, such as the worldwide trade in porcelain, and global perceptions and knowledge of Chinese material culture and technology. She is currently the director of the Global History and Culture Centre, based in the Department of History at the University of Warwick.

Trevor Getz is a Professor of African History at San Francisco State University. He is the author or co-author of seven books, the latest of which is the graphic history Abina and the Important Men. He is currently working on a digital world history textbook with Jonathan Brooke and is editing the Oxford University Press series African World Histories.

Michael Geyer is Samuel N. Harper Professor of German and European History at the University of Chicago and faculty director of the Human Rights Program. His main academic interests are war and violence, the history and theory of Human Rights, and global history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Among his recent publications is Beyond Totalitarianism: Stalinism and Nazism Compared, edited with Sheila Fitzpatrick (2009). The current essay is part of a book project (with Charles Bright), The Global Condition in the Long-Twentieth Century.

Thomas D. Hall is Professor Emeritus in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, DePauw University, Greencastle, Indiana. He holds an MA in Anthropology, University of Michigan, and a PhD in Sociology, University of Washington. His interests include indigenous peoples, ethnicity, and comparative frontiers. Recent publications include “World-systems analysis and archaeology: Continuing the dialogue,” with P. Nick Kardulias and Christopher Chase-Dunn, Journal of Archaeological Research 19 (3) (2011): 233–279; “Resilience and community in the age of world-system collapse,” with Glen D. Kuecker, Nature and Culture 6 (1) (2011): 18–40; Indigenous Peoples and Globalization: Resistance and Revitalization, with James V. Fenelon (2009).

Huri Islamoğlu is Professor of Economic History, Boğazici University, Istanbul; and since 2008, Visiting Professor of History, University of California, Berkeley. Her publications include (with Peter Perdue) Shared Histories of Modernity in China, India and the Ottoman Empire (2009); Constituting Modernity: Private Property in the East and West (2004); Ottoman Empire and the World Economy (1987); and State and Peasant in the Ottoman Empire (1994). She has written and lectured in the fields of comparative economic history and political economy, legal history, agricultural history and agriculture and current globalization trends, and global governance.

Paul A. Kramer is an Associate Professor of History at Vanderbilt University, with research and teaching interests in US imperial, transnational and global histories since the mid-nineteenth century. He is the author of The Blood of Government: Race, Empire, the United States and the Philippines (2006). He co-edits the Cornell University Press series The United States in the World, and is currently at work on a book-length project on the nexus between empire and US immigration policy across the twentieth century.

Scott C. Levi (PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2000) is Associate Professor of Central Asian history at Ohio State University. In addition to his articles and book chapters, Levi has authored The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade, 1550–1900 (2002), edited India and Central Asia: Commerce and Culture, 1500–1800 (2007), and co-edited (with Ron Sela) Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Sources (2010).

Jie-Hyun Lim is Professor of Comparative History and the director of the Research Institute of Comparative History and Culture at Hanyang University in Seoul. He has held visiting appointments in Krakow, Cardiff, Kyoto, Berlin and Cambridge, Mass. He has written numerous books and articles on the comparative histories of nationalist movements, colonialism, issues of memory, and the sociocultural history of Marxism in East Asia and Eastern Europe. He now edits a Palgrave series on mass dictatorship in the twentieth century. His most recent project is a transnational history of “victimhood nationalism,” covering post–World War II Korea, Japan, Poland, Israel, and Germany.

Xinru Liu (PhD, University of Pennsylvania) teaches world history and the history of South Asia and Central Asia at the College of New Jersey in Ewing and is associated with the Institute of History and the Institute of World History, Chinese Academy of Sciences. Among her many publications are Ancient India and Ancient China (1988); Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People in AD 600–1200 (1996); Connections across Eurasia: Transportation, Communications, and Cultural Exchange on the Silk Roads, with Lynda Norene Shaffer (2007); and The Silk Road in World History (2010).

Adam McKeown is Associate Professor of History at Columbia University, where he offers courses on the histories of globalization, world migration and drugs, and is the co-coordinator of the PhD track in International and Global History. He wrote Melancholy Order: Asian Migration and the Globalization of Borders (2008), and Chinese Migrant Networks and Cultural Change: Peru, Chicago, Hawaii, 1900–1936 (2001). He is now working on the history of globalization since 1760.

Stephen Morillo, DPhil Oxford, Professor of History and Chair of Division III (Social Sciences) at Wabash College, specializes in premodern comparative world and military history. He is President of De Re Militari, the Society for Medieval Military History. He has written Structures and Systems: Conceptual Frameworks of World History, a forthcoming world history textbook, and is working on a cultural history of warrior elites in world history. His numerous other books, articles, and chapters include What Is Military History? and War in World History: Society, Technology and War from Ancient Times to the Present, a military world history textbook.

Katja Naumann is a researcher at the Center for the History and Culture of East Central Europe at the University of Leipzig, where she coordinates a handbook on the transnational history of the region. She lectures at the Global and European Studies Institute in Leipzig and coordinates the headquarters of the European Network in Universal and Global History. Further, she works on the editorial boards of the geschichte.transnational forum and Comparativ: A Journal for Global History and Comparative Studies. In her dissertation she analyzed the development of world history teaching in the United States (1918–1968).

Douglas Northrop is Associate Professor of History and Near Eastern Studies at the University of Michigan, where he teaches modern Central Asian studies and helped create a program in world and global history. His books include Veiled Empire: Gender and Power in Stalinist Central Asia and An Imperial World: Empires and Colonies Since 1750 (forthcoming). His current research brings together environmental, colonial, cultural, and urban history in telling the story of Central Asia through natural disaster – specifically, a series of major earthquakes that struck the region during the last two centuries.

Martin S. Pernick, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, received a PhD in history from Columbia University, and has taught at the Harvard School of Public Health, and the Pennsylvania State University Hershey Medical Center. He authored A Calculus of Suffering (1985), on professional and cultural attitudes towards pain treatment in nineteenth-century America, and The Black Stork (1996), on eugenics and euthanasia in American medicine and film; plus numerous articles on epidemics, defining death, disability, eugenics, public health films, medical professionalism, informed consent, and the relation between history and bioethics, in US and comparative history.

Kenneth Pomeranz is University Professor of History at the University of Chicago. He previously taught at the University of California, Irvine, and was Founding Director of the University of California’s Multi-Campus Research Program in World History. 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. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, American Philosophical Society, ACLS, Institute for Advanced Studies, and NEH, among others.

Sebastian R. Prange is Assistant Professor of History at the University of British Columbia. His research centers on the organization of Muslim trade networks in the medieval and early modern Indian Ocean, with a regional focus on South India.

Dominic Sachsenmaier taught transcultural and Chinese history at Duke University before his recent move to become a Professor of Modern Asian History at Jacobs University in Germany. His main current research interests are Chinese and Western approaches to global history as well as the impact of World War I on political and intellectual cultures in China and other parts of the world. He has also published in fields such as seventeenth-century Sino-Western cultural relations, overseas Chinese communities in Southeast Asia, and multiple modernities. His most recent book is Global Perspectives on Global History: Theories and Approaches in a Connected World (2011).

Damon Ieremia Salesa is Associate Professor of Pacific Studies at the Centre of Pacific Studies at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. He is the author of Racial Crossings: Race, Intermarriage and the Victorian British Empire (2011), one of the contributing authors to The New Oxford History of New Zealand (2009), editor (with Kolokesa Māhina and Sean Mallon) of Tangata o le Moana Nui: The Peoples of the Pacific and New Zealand (2012), and author of many other articles on race, Pacific, indigenous and imperial history. He is currently completing a book project, Empire Trouble and Troublesome Half-Castes: Samoans and the Greatest Powers in the World.

Daniel A. Segal is the Director of the Munroe Center of Social Inquiry and Jean M. Pitzer Professor of Anthropology and History at Pitzer College. He is a past Fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences and a recipient of the American Historical Association’s William Gilbert Award. He has published on race and nationalism in Trinidad, incest in Jane Austen, and on the history of undergraduate history textbooks. He contributes to the Slow Blog movement at

Ian Simmons ended his book-writing days with a triad of books on environmental history, each written at a specific spatial scale but all covering the last 10,000 years. The last, Global Environmental History (2008), tried to encompass both the scientific outlook in which he was schooled and the broader contributions of the social sciences and humanities. He lives in Durham, UK, and is preparing a website on medieval environmental change in east Lincolnshire, a little-known area to which he was a wartime evacuee. His happy memories also include being a post-doc at Berkeley in the 1960s.

David Simo is Professor of German Literature, Comparative Literature, and Cultural Studies at the University of Yaoundé 1 in Cameroon, and a visiting professor at various German, French, and American universities. Born in Baham, Cameroon, in 1951, he studied German language and literature, comparative literature, and political science in Abidjan, Saarbrücken and Metz, earning a PhD in comparative literature in Metz (France), 1979, and a postdoctoral qualification (Habilitation) in Hanover, 1991, on intercultural experiences. He has published articles on German and African literature, postcolonial theory and criticism, and cultural studies. He received the Humboldt Foundation’s Reimar Lüst Prize, and serves as Director of the Center for German African Scientific Research Cooperation in Yaoundé.

Mrinalini Sinha is the Alice Freeman Palmer Professor of History at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. She is the author of Colonial Masculinity: The “Manly Englishman” and the “Effeminate Bengali” in the Late Nineteenth Century (1995) and of Specters of Mother India: The Global Restructuring of an Empire (2006). She is currently working on the implications of the 1929 nationalist resolution for the complete political independence of India from the British Empire.

Fred Spier is Senior Lecturer in Big History at the University of Amsterdam. Spier has a MSc in biochemistry and both an MA and a PhD in cultural anthropology and social history. He executed a 10-year research project on religion, politics and ecology in Andean Peru. In his book Big History and the Future of Humanity (2010), Spier presents an explanatory model for all of history. Translations exist or are forthcoming in Spanish, Chinese and Arabic. Spier currently serves as the first Vice President of the International Big History Association (IBHA).

Heather Streets-Salter received her PhD at Duke University in 1998. She is Associate Professor at Northeastern University, where she directs the graduate program in World History. Previously she directed the graduate program in World History at Washington State University from 2003 to 2011. Recent works include Martial Races: The Military, Martial Races, and Masculinity in British Imperial Culture, 1857–1914 (2004), Traditions and Encounters: A Brief Global History (2006) with Jerry Bentley and Herb Ziegler, and Modern Imperialism and Colonialism: A Global Perspective (2010) with Trevor Getz. Her current monograph is called Empire Crossings: Connections across Imperial Borders in Southeast Asia.

Karin Vélez is Assistant Professor of History at Macalester College. A doctoral graduate of Princeton University, she has also worked at Northeastern University, Duke University as a Thompson Writing Program Fellow (2008), and Williams College as a Gaius Charles Bolin Fellow (2005). She has recently published on the transatlantic gifts of the Huron of Lorette (French Colonial History Journal 12 (2011)) and on early modern missions to the Americas (in Mary Laven et al., eds, Ashgate Research Companion to the Counter-Reformation (2012)). She is currently finalizing a book manuscript, “Catholic landings in the early modern world: Jesuits, converts and the collective miracle of Loreto.”

Kerry Ward is Associate Professor of World History and Director of African Studies at Rice University. She is the author of Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company (2009). Ward has published in the fields of slavery and forced migration, Indian Ocean history, South African and Indonesian colonial history, and historical memory and public history. She is currently Secretary of the World History Association.

Barbara Weinstein is the Silver Professor of History at New York University. Her research has focused primarily on postcolonial Brazil, and includes two monographs, The Amazon Rubber Boom, 1850–1920 (1983) and For Social Peace in Brazil: Industrialists and the Remaking of the Working Class in São Paulo, 1920–1964 (1996). She is co-editor of The Making of the Middle Class: Toward a Transnational History (2012), and is currently completing The Color of Modernity, a study of race, regional inequalities, and national identities in Brazil.

Leslie Witz is a Professor in the Department of History at the University of the Western Cape, in Cape Town, South Africa. His major research centers around how different histories are created and represented in the public domain through memorials, museums, festivals, and tourism. His book Apartheid’s Festival: Contesting South Africa’s National Pasts was published in 2003. He has also written two books for popular audiences: Write Your Own History (1988) and How to Write Essays (1990). Witz is the chair of the board of Lwandle Migrant Labour Museum.

Norman Yoffee’s research oscillates between the fields of Assyriology (Mesopotamian studies) and Anthropology. These fields come together in Myths of the Archaic State: Evolution of the Earliest Cities, States, and Civilizations (2005). After retiring from the Departments of Near Eastern Studies and Anthropology at the University of Michigan, he is now Adjunct Professor in the Departments of Anthropology, University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and University of New Mexico, and is Senior Fellow, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University. His home page is

Weiwei Zhang is Associate Professor of History at Nankai University, China. He has taught at Nankai since 1975, offering courses in modern global history and world-systems study and working to develop a noncentric and holistic approach which emphasizes global disequilibrium and social physics. A member of the executive board of the Network of Global and World History Organizations (NOGWHISTO), and of the board of directors of the Asian Association of World Historians, Zhang earned his PhD in 1998 at Nankai, served as visiting scholar at the Institute of Historical Research, University of London (1987–1988, 1999–2000), at Seoul National University, Korea (1997), and the University of Louisville (2002), and received a Teaching Model Award of Higher Education, Tianjin (1996).

Editor’s Acknowledgments

No book is an island – and no author stands alone. Every writer’s voice appears, and takes on full meaning, in conversation with others: with those who wrote earlier, and those located around the globe. This idea should be particularly obvious to anyone interested in world history, given the field’s focus on core themes like interaction, encounter, and mutual influence. It should be just as plain in a large-scale collective book like this one – with its almost three dozen chapters, each of which sets out to map a terrain of scholarship produced by scores of authors. The scale of such an undertaking produces obvious logistical challenges (and the requisite jokes about cat-herding), but the effort also shows at every step the interlocking, iterative character of historical work. As this book now heads out to its own world of readers, I am humbled and grateful for the unstinting contributions of the many who brought it into existence.

This list starts with Tessa Harvey, publisher for History at Wiley-Blackwell, who first proposed the idea of such a book, and framed it as part of the Companions series. Tessa encouraged me to take the plunge as editor, helped sharpen my initial ideas as they grew into the volume’s overall architecture, and brainstormed details and assisted with the recruitment of an extraordinary slate of authors – who now fill its pages. Gillian Kane likewise helped as the volume took shape, and provided steady encouragement as the months passed. Later in the production process I had the good fortune to work with Isobel Bainton and Sue Leigh, the very best of project editors and managers, who kept track of myriad balls in the air and without whom the book could never have appeared, and with Ann Bone, Glynis Baguley, and Zeb Korycinska, the most vigilant (and patient) of copyeditors, proofreaders, and indexers.

In plotting the table of contents I consulted with, and twisted the arms of, dozens of colleagues. Many, happily, agreed to participate by writing a chapter. Some went above and beyond in thinking about the volume as a whole, and helped me make connections among its various components – here I am particularly grateful to Michael Adas. Among those whose names do not appear in the chapter listing, but who nevertheless played an important role in shaping my ideas about what this book could and should do, I thank Kären Wigen and Martin Lewis.

The essays that follow engage questions of scholarship alongside pedagogy, and confront issues of institution as much as intellect. These practicalities that enable (and channel) intellectual work can be invisible to readers and students, yet are nonetheless critical. Given world history’s oft-marginal status in the disciplinary arenas of History, I am astonishingly fortunate to have worked at three institutions that not only allowed, but even encouraged, such exploration. I first taught world history at Pitzer College, where Daniel Segal brought me into his fascinating pedagogical projects and showed me what was at stake in the effort; later I helped design world-oriented graduate and undergraduate programs at the University of Georgia, and then, since 2004, at the University of Michigan. My thinking has been shaped by hundreds of students along the way, first-year undergraduates through PhDs in global history, and by colleagues at every step.

I am particularly mindful of the remarkable support provided by the University of Michigan, an unusually encouraging place for serious efforts to build world/global history. Gratitude is due especially to Geoff Eley, the extraordinary department chair of History, and Kathleen Canning, the dedicated former director of the Eisenberg Institute for Historical Studies (EIHS). In spring 2009 more than two dozen Michigan faculty and PhD students signed up for an EIHS boot camp, which I co-taught with Robert Bain, on “Thinking and Teaching in Global Dimensions.” Since then curricula, faculty hires, visiting speakers, and student admissions have all changed – interweaving “the global” (in all its flavors and meanings) throughout institutional life. Unlike most academics, with at most a handful of people working on the margins of a department, I am now privileged to have no fewer than 31 (!!) History faculty self-declared as members of a “globalist” faculty group. (In Michigan’s language of acronyms, this status formally means belonging to the “GWITECC” faculty caucus – dedicated to “global, world, international, trans-regional, edges, connective, and comparative history.”) A few current members are represented in the pages that follow (Bain, Bright, Pernick, Sinha); others who contribute to the vibrant presence of world history at Michigan, and who have shaped my thinking about it, include Howard Brick, Gabrielle Hecht, Nancy Hunt, Valerie Kivelson, Ian Moyer, Hitomi Tonomura, and Penny Von Eschen.

By authorial convention I save for last the most fundamental and heartfelt of debts. My family has heard much about the challenges of this book, and has seen firsthand the logistical complications of shepherding 33 chapters to completion. My wife, Michelle McClellan, dealt as much as I did with the sharp end of those challenges, and she deserves as much credit for finding their solutions. My sons, Jeremy and Sawyer, saw me working on this book for a long time – but as perhaps the only preadolescents in Michigan simultaneously learning Uyghur alphabets, studying aeronautical engineering, and reading voraciously about world politics, they also served as inspiration for its completion. To me they are emblematic of what it means to let minds range freely, all around the globe, crossing borders wherever and whenever one’s interests may go.


The Challenge of World History


What do historians see – and what do they miss? It depends, of course, on how any particular historian chooses to look. She or he must first decide on a time and place to investigate, identify sources to serve as evidence, and pose questions to ask about them. Each choice is shaped by a scholar’s training – the way they learned the craft of “history.” Usually this happens at an academic institution, through formal education in one or more clearly defined “fields”: French history, African history, early modern history, the history of science, and so on. Experienced scholars convey their expertise to students, carefully preparing the next generation of historians, honing linguistic skills and imparting deep knowledge of particular archives, libraries, and publications. New historians thus emerge well versed in their area’s theoretical, methodological, and historiographical debates – at least as these are understood at their academic institution, located in its own geographic and cultural context, and at a certain point in time. But what happens if these institutional and intellectual pathways are disrupted – if historical questions are asked in new ways, stretching across the boundaries of the existing fields? Can time and space be stretched, as in Map I.1, and historians take a new, broader, perspective?

This is precisely what practitioners of world and global history aim to do. They represent a young “field,” at least by the standards of professional history, one that by most measures has only come into its own over the past quarter-century. World history is still in some ways embattled, harshly criticized by self-styled disciplinary gatekeepers, including some specialists in nationally defined fields – Japanese history, Russian history, American history, etc. World history may represent a practical threat (as a new claimant to limited institutional resources) but is more likely to be attacked in intellectual terms, as a marginal, even doomed approach, too general, impossibly broad, obviously too superficial to permit serious scholarship. Yet world history – as a professional arena – is populated by a diverse and rapidly growing group of scholars and teachers who have worked hard to show the contrary. They have developed all the trappings and infrastructure of a legitimate institutional domain: professional organizations (especially the World History Association,, journals (notably the Anglophone Journal of World History and Journal of Global History), book prizes, teaching prizes, PhD programs, undergraduate courses, elementary- and secondary-school curricula, textbooks at all levels, handbooks for teachers, scholarly monographs, popular publications, Advanced Placement tests, museum exhibits, television shows – the list goes on.1 World historians thus stand on much stronger ground now to argue with skeptics than they did a generation ago. The field is sufficiently rooted and broad-based to have moved beyond self-justification; it includes a panoply of internal conversations and arguments about what world-historical work can and should do. World historians take deeply divergent approaches, sometimes evincing little consensus about the field’s wider parameters or its common standards. World history is a professional arena visibly in flux, still taking shape, open for dispute. This volume sketches the resulting arguments, and traces the field’s principal trajectories. But world historians as a group share the impulse to see the human past differently – more expansively – by reaching beyond the boxes in which history is conventionally taught.

Map I.1 On a typical world map, such as the classic Mercator projection, Greenland appears misleadingly enormous – yet few observers pause to note the inaccuracies. Mapmakers rarely question other basic assumptions, such as drawing north at the top. But if the Earth resembles a ball spinning through space, are “up” and “down” so self-evident? Better maps can provide fresh perspective, and make viewers aware of unspoken assumptions. The Hobo-Dyer projection shows accurately the relative size of different land areas, while preserving north/south and east/west lines of bearing. It also gives the Southern Hemisphere visual prominence, imagining a globe that has been recentered Down Under.

Source: Hobo-Dyer Equal Area Projection. © 2007, ODTmaps. Adapted with permission from


William McNeill, perhaps the best-known world historian of the last century, once memorably defended the field through metaphor. What might a world historian see, he asked, that a national, regional, or period-specific historian would miss? “A tree is a tree,” he pointed out. It is also a collection of millions of cells, or trillions of atoms; at the same time, it is also a vanishingly tiny piece of the forest ecosystems that stretch far beyond its trunk. Biologists may analyze how the tree’s cells work, parse the chemical processing of chlorophyll, and zoom down to the molecular level of DNA – all valuable endeavors – but that does not make it inaccurate to talk about “the tree.” No one needs to understand every individual cell to know what a tree is. Ecologists, likewise, need not start at the atomic level – nor the level of an individual tree – to discuss the “forest”: to analyze its seasonal variations, its diseases, or its interactions with other species (such as humans). Put simply, different entities, issues, and patterns emerge at each level of perspective (atom-cell-tree-forest). None are right or wrong in an absolute sense, merely more or less appropriate to the questions being asked. Every phenomenon is best seen at its own scale; each is also inescapably comprised of smaller units, while interlocking with others to shape larger levels. “Precision and truthfulness,” McNeill concluded, “do not necessarily increase as the scale becomes smaller.”2

McNeill expanded the point – and the concomitant value of adopting a bird’s-eye perspective – by describing a walk he had taken long before, when he was a graduate student in New York City. One day in Morningside Park he looked out and saw a major highway, the Hudson Parkway, stretched out beneath him. From his elevated point of view, he suddenly realized, “the stop-and-go traffic on the Parkway constituted a longitudinal wave, with nodes and anti-nodes spaced at regular intervals, moving along the Parkway at a pace considerably faster than any single vehicle could make its way along the crowded roadway.” Each individual car was part of this wave, although it far exceeded any one vehicle in both size and speed. The wave, McNeill declared, was “most certainly there – clear and unambiguous,” notwithstanding the fact that few if any drivers on the road – in fact, probably no one but McNeill himself, watching from the overlook – could be aware of its existence. Recognizing it required three things: a perceptive observer (McNeill), a proper spot from which to look (Morningside Park), and a concept through which to “see” and understand what was happening (the idea of a longitudinal wave).

This Companion to World History provides readers with dozens of such spots from which to look, and key concepts with which to make sense of what they see. World history’s defenders often use such conceits, frequently invoking ideas of a “lens” or viewpoint to make the case for adopting a world/global-level perspective. Metaphors of visibility and perspective abound, and contributors to this book are no exception – they use many different lenses (zoom, wide-angle, moving back and forth, and so on). The volume aims to orient readers to world history by showing the globe from as many of these points of view as possible. It sketches the development of world history as a professional field, especially over the past generation of scholarship; identifies principal areas of continuing contention, disagreement and divergence; and suggests fruitful directions for further discussion and research. It also considers issues of scholarship (research) and pedagogy (teaching) – each of which yields fresh insights but also poses particular challenges when approached at transnational, interregional, or world/global scales.