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What is Global History?

What is Global History?

Pamela Kyle Crossley

ISBN: 978-0-745-63300-8 March 2008 Polity 152 Pages


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Global and world history address the deep structural changes that have shaped human experience. Many are material, related to environmental and climatic alteration, to the domestication of livestock and development of agriculture, to technology, to disease, and to variations in human immunity, reproduction, and physiology.

Others are social and cultural, touching upon issues of migration, trade, language development and differentiation, institutions of enslavement and of freedom, traditions of marriage and child-rearing, the emergence of large-scale political organization from early kingdoms to vast empires, republics and federations, and the management of war and peace.

To deal with such challenging issues, global historians draw upon new techniques of analysis and comparison. But they also continue venerable traditions, inherited from the earliest civilizations, of narrating the past on the most comprehensive and significant scale possible.

This book examines the long search for an integrated human story, and particularly the points at which rapid changes of philosophy and perspective in the twentieth century transformed the historical disciplines. It provides the perfect introduction to global history for students and scholars alike.


Chapter 1 The Great Story Impulse.

Chapter 2 Divergence.

Chapter 3 Convergence.

Chapter 4 Contagion.

Chapter 5 Systems.

Chapter 6 What Global History Is.


"A short book on a big subject ... A useful volume with which to introduce students to theories and particular authors as they come to make their own assessment of 'deep forces'."

"An outstanding introduction to the problems and possibilities of global history. Professor Crossley has fearlessly negotiated her way through a vast body of literature, full of contradictions and conundrums, and emerged with brilliant heuristic strategies for achieving the impossible."

Richard J. Smith, Rice University

"In learned and lucid prose, this slim volume conveys the great debates and documentary advances through which global history became a major new field of study. Pamela Kyle Crossley traces the evolution of four interpretive approaches and reaches an astute conclusion on 'what global history is'. This book will enable a wide readership to join productively in the discussion on global change."

Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburgh

  • An introduction to the relatively new discipline of global history
  • Written by a prominent American scholar, with a strong international reputation
  • Clearly defines what global history is before discussing the main figures, trends and methodologies of the field
  • Global history is a growth area of study, but one which is as yet badly understood. Academics and students will welcome this comprehensive clarification
  • Suitable for adoption on courses from 2nd year undergraduates onwards