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Global History: A Short Overview

ISBN: 978-0-7456-2805-9
224 pages
August 2001, Polity
Global History: A Short Overview (0745628052) cover image


This short book offers a clear and engaging introduction to the history of humankind, from the earliest movements of people to the contemporary epoch of globalization. Cowen traces this complex history in a manner which offers both a compelling narrative and an analytical and comparative treatment. Drawing on a new perspective on global history, he traces the intersection of change in economics, politics and human beliefs, examining the formation, enlargement and limits of human societies. Global History shows how much of human history encompasses three intersecting forces - trading networks, expanding political empires and crusading creeds.

Abandoning the limits of a Eurocentric view of the world, the book offers a number of fresh insights. Its periodization embraces movement across continents and across the millennia. The indigenous American civilizations are included, for instance. The book also ranges over the early civilizations of China and Europe as well as the Russian and Islamic worlds. Modern American and Japanese civilizations are, in addition, a focus for attention. The author examines national and regional histories in relation to wider themes, sequences and global tendencies. In conclusion, he seeks to address the question of the extent to which a global society is beginning to crystallize.

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Table of Contents



The Classical Era.

Part I: The Primary Concern.

1. Global Odyssey: Searching for Subsistence.

2. Civilized Centres: Settlements Become Permanent.

3. Rulers and Myths; Preconditions of Stability.

Part II: The Political Prospect.

4. Hostile Encounters: The Threat from Outside:.

5. Communication Network: Paths to Co-existence.

6. Global Response: The Spreading of the Empires.

Part III: The Religious Factor.

7. Creeds of Empire: Conformity and Allegiance.

8. Crossing Frontiers: Faiths and Universalism.

9. Division and Decline: Propaganda for Salvation.

From Classical to Modern.

The Modern Era.

Part IV: New Beginnings.

10. Movements of Peoples: Nomads and New Settlers.

11. Economic Breakthrough: New Bases of Subsistence.

12. Church and State: Twin Pillars of Stability.

Part V: Wider Identities.

13. Centuries of Empire: Global Impulse Renewed.

14. Tools of Empire: Technology of Expansion.

15. Creeds of Empire: Ideologies on the Move.

Part VI: Global Tendencies.

16. The World Economy: From Crisis to Growth.

17. Hostile Encounters: Civilizations at War.

18. Communication Network: Search for Co-existence.




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Author Information

Noel Cowen writes from long experience and observation, early on as a newspaper reporter, later as a civil servant in the Treasury working on problems of postwar reconstruction in a global context, and at the Ministry of Education seeking to develop the teaching of world history, and finally as an independent researcher, writer and speaker.

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The Wiley Advantage

  • A overview of the history of the world in 200 pages

  • Written in a lively and accessible way

  • A great introduction for those who want to have a brief background to the origins and interactions of many cultures

  • Concludes by exploring the extent to which we now live in a global society
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"This great little book is well-written, erudite and provides a sweeping historical survey which anyone with an interest in world history will find a very valuable introduction."
--Professor Anthony McGrew, Politics Department, Southampton University

"This is a good contribution to theories of globalization, bringing an important historical dimension to approaches that are often ahistorical. The additional focus of civilizations rather than nation-states is particularly interesting."
--Gerard Delanty, University of Liverpool, Network

"Noel Cowen's brave and brief text consciously imitates and combines the broadest patterns suggested by McNeill, Wallerstein and Braudel. His subject is not humanity but 'civilizations' that developed significant surpluses beyond subsistence...Cowen predicts an impending victory for financial imperialism, which has already converted most of the world's elites into its gospel of economic growth and higher living standards. If the human community can be provided with a unifying history, it will not likely be built over the sad skeleton of the history of tyrannies that Cowen's conscientious account so clearly exposes." (Canadian Journal of History, December 2004)

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