WORLD HISTORY”:
WORLD HISTORY”:
A NEW COURSE FOR
A NEW COURSE FOR
HISTORIOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH
HISTORIOGRAPHICAL RESEARCH

What and why is “W!"d
What and why is “W!"d
Hist!y”#
Hist!y”#
World history has rapidly grown, in the last World history has rapidly grown, in the last
decades, to become one of the most popular and decades, to become one of the most popular and
talked about NEW APPROACE! "O "E !"#$% O& talked about NEW APPROACE! "O "E !"#$% O&
'!"OR%( '!"OR%(
'ts rise maybe constitutes "E )O!" !'*N'&'CAN" 'ts rise maybe constitutes "E )O!" !'*N'&'CAN"
CAN*E 'N '!"OR% "EAC'N* for the past half CAN*E 'N '!"OR% "EAC'N* for the past half
century( century(
"he construction of World history, as a "he construction of World history, as a distinct distinct
academic +eld of historical study, represents in academic +eld of historical study, represents in
itself a product of history, since it re,ects "E itself a product of history, since it re,ects "E
#)AN A""E)P" "O &#--% #N$ER!"AN$ AN$ #)AN A""E)P" "O &#--% #N$ER!"AN$ AN$
RE!PON$ "O "E CON"E)PORAR% CA--EN*E O& RE!PON$ "O "E CON"E)PORAR% CA--EN*E O&
"E *-O.A- A*E, pro/iding a meaningful historical "E *-O.A- A*E, pro/iding a meaningful historical
conte0t for the globali1ed society we li/e in today( conte0t for the globali1ed society we li/e in today(

F! a s$%&i'& d%'nitin (
“W!"d hist!y”)))
...The historiographical feld that exalts a 2'!"OR% O&
CONNEC"'ON! 'N!'$E A *-O.A- #)AN CO))#N'"%3: it
priviledges the CRO!!4C#-"#RA- AN$ CRO!!4NA"'ONA-
$')EN!'ON of the historical becoming, choosing the
'N"ERAC"'ON A)ON* $'&&EREN" #)AN *RO#P!,
whether it is related to migratory fows, fuctuations on a large
scale, spread from a civilization to another of technological
innovations, propagation of contagious diseases, commercial
long-distance trades or circulation of religious faith, ideas,
ideals.
...a ind of !)ACRO'!"OR%", transregional, transnational,
and transcultural, with multiple prospectives and narratives,
created by an on-going dialectic between the common and
collective past and the many individual voices of memory that
past contains.

Th% n%&%ssa!y att%*$t at
na!!atin+ hist!y in th% a+%
( +",a"ity)))
#n front of the extremely complex and interconnected world we
live in, at the end of $$th century:
% pressing need for a NEW 5'N$ O& '!"OR'CA- !COPE,
which deals with the issues that contemporary global society
poses and will pose in the future E6A)'NA"'ON
O& #)AN'"%7! !ARE$ PA!", especially to clarify what it
really was all about and how it relates to the present, in
explanation of and in response to the &uestions shaped by the
actual globalized world
!We need a history that shows how world relationships have emerged
and how diferent cultural and political traditions have formed and
interacted." '.(. )tearns
)o, only !a clear and vivid sense of the whole human past can help to
soften future conficts by making clear what we all share."
*.+.,c(eill


N%w $%!s$%&ti-%. "d
$a!adi+*)))
*orld history as an 'NNO8A"'ON - a $E-'.ERA"E
$EPAR"#RE from the way history has been usually framed
at the teaching level
)ubstantial CR'"'C'!) A*A'N!" "E "RA$'"'ONA-
E#ROPEAN '!"OR'O*RAP%, charged with having
imposed, for a long time, a historical methodology
expression of an E#ROCEN"R'C PER!PEC"'8E, according
to the ideology of western imperialism and the central
concept of european national states.
.rom the age of decolonization, this paradigm estabilished on
a narrow, exclusive western framewor needs to be totally
refreshed and surpassed...
'RR#P"'ON O& A NEW 8'EW O& '!"OR%: claim to
generate a RA$'CA- CAN*E O& )'N$ A.O#" "E
PA!", proceeding well beyond purely european or american
content

)))An inn-ati-% *d%")))
/eaving the traditional, national-with-civilizational approach,
aiming particularly at use the historical lens of world0s past to
understand present global conditions, *orld history proposes a
new !EC#)EN'CA- '!"OR%", characterized by:

a propensity to AC"'8E PROCE!!E! ON A CRO!!4
NA"'ONA-, tendentially global, !CA-E9 CO)PARA"'8E
A""EN"'ON to several distinct cultural and political
experiences1

an emphasis on the deep 'N"ER$EPEN$ENCE A)ON*
*-O.A- PENO)ENA, re2ecting the idea of an exclusively
local history which wouldn0t deal with international processes:
focus on factors that trascend single societies1


a serious attention to several ma2or cultural traditions and
C'8'-':A"'ON!, assumed as the foundamental #N'"! O&
ANA-%!'! on a space-time wide-scale1

% careful exploration and widening of CON"AC"! A)ON*
$'&&EREN" !OC'E"'E! and of the larger forces 3that is,
E6CAN*E O& '$EA!, 5NOW-E$*E, "ECNO-O*'E! and
"RA$E PA""ERN!4 that shape the experience of any particular
region: all these elements are now choosed as the ey-factor in
the historical becoming.
- *-O.A- PER!PEC"'8E, which allows to acnowledge and
integrate, in a comprehensive !.'* P'C"#RE", the historical,
shared experiences of all of the world0s people.
The history of the world is not seen as the
assembling of separated histories of all places and times into
one grand narrative, but as an 'N"E*RA"E$ WO-E, a .RA'$
O& 'N"ER"W'NE$ AN$ !ARE$ '!"OR'E! ; <
possibility to conceive a !creation story" of the human
civilization development, seen now as a single entity4.

R%i*a+inin+ th% w!"d)))
5#)T#(6T#78 .8%T9:8) ;. *;:/5 +#)T;:<:

"E)A"'C APPROAC: search for *-O.A- PA""ERN! that
emerge from the world0s vast collection of historical narratives and
that have drawn humanity together = ponderation on the
')POR"AN" $'&&ERENCE! between people across space and
time 3patterns that reveal the diversity of the human experience4,
trying however to place them in a CO))ON '!"OR'CA-
CON"E6" dominated by CONNEC"'ON! "RO#* "')E AN$
*EO*RAP'CA- !PACE- 'N"E*RA"'ON=$'&&ERENCE: e&ual
global experience of both processes of !accelerating integration"
and !proliferating di>erences" 3attention to this shifting, dynamic
tension which constantly connotes processes of human
interchange41

RE*'ONA- PER!PEC"'8E in which NEW !PA"'A- EN"'"'E! 3vs.
traditional category of national state4 are defned by the
'N"ERAC"'ON A)ON* $'&&EREN" !OC'E"'E!- articulation of
a WOR-$W'$E4WE. )O$E-, built on a plurality of fuid,
scattered !nots"


A""E)P" "O $ECEN"RA-':E "E APPROAC>'N"ERPRE"A"'ON
O& "E '!"OR'CA- ANA-%!'!- 'NC-#!'ON O& NON4E#ROPEAN
PEOP-E as active participants in the dynamic meeting?interaction
with *estern civilization 3AC5NOW-E$*)EN" O& "E
2A*ENC%3O& "E 2RE!"3 in the relation with the !central" *est4 =
RE-A"'8':A"'ON O& WE!"ERN '!"OR'CA- E6PER'ENCE,
integrating it with the other parts of the world and regarding *estern
case as 2ust one among several rather than one possessed of clearly
special virtues 3debate of the !8uropean ,iracle" and of the myth of
!%merican exceptionalism"4

W!"d Hist!y and w!"d
hist!ians twa!d an wn
a&ad%*i& stat/t%
)ince the dawning of $$ century, few ambitious historians and,
moreover, philosophers of history began to turn to the PRO?EC" O&
!5E"C'N* A *-O.A- &RA)EWOR5 &OR #)AN
E6PER'ENCE, in response to the crisis of the conceptual dimension
of national state and of the enthusiastic, progressive confdence of
the european nineteenth-century model of development.
@ frst attempt to elaborate a more comple0 concept of
society on a large scale, establishing it as the suitable category of
a new global historical analysis 3embryonic interest in the analysis of
extra-european cultures and claims4

&ORER#NNER! O& WOR-$ '!"OR% APPROACE!, that
anticipate this globalizing trend:
O) S$%n+"%! 3ABBC-ADEF4: polemic with regard to the
eurocentric scheme of traditional, uni/ersal history1
P'ONEER'N* PA!!A*E &RO) A '!"OR% O& 2Ci/ili1ation3
"O A P-#RA- '!"OR% O& )#-"'P-E 2ci/ili1ations3, 2ust
conceived as indipendent and not interconnected G“The decline
of the West”H1
A)Tyn,%% 3ABBD-ADIJ4: !spiritual" theorization?foundation of
actual world history: underlining of the historical importance
of the 'N"ERAC"'ON'!" &AC"OR among di@erent
cultures>societies1 emphasis accorded to the CA"E*OR%
O& C'8'-':A"'ONA- CON"AC" as an essential dynamics in
human history G“A tudy of !istory”".


)ince ADFCs: a more decisive set of developments too shape
.irst active promoter of an authentic world history, the most
representative of this historiographical turning point - W)H) 0&N%i""
G“The #ise of the West”H: ci/ili1ations as pri/ileged units of
analysis 3looing at the formation of great cultural and political
traditions in all the world41 preferential study of historical processes on
a large space-time scale1 contacts among societies = e0change of
ideas, technologies, knowledge as key factors of historical
becoming1 thematic approach towards acti/e processes in a
cross4national perspecti/e 3encouraging attention to historical
experiences outside the *est4

#t was only in the ADBCs that world history began to come into its
own, as the result of constant and coherent e>orts of particular
teachers and students in collaboration with each other:
ABCD: ?erry ( .entley founds the WOR-$ '!"OR%
A!!OC'A"'ON and, as its director, launches the review 2?O#RNA-
O& WOR-$ '!"OR%3, published &uarterly by the *orld +istory
%ssociation since ADDC1 it becomes the e>ective organ of discussion
about this innovative perspective of historiographical research.
Gadvent of world history as a distinct academic feld of study, with own
graduate programs in several universitiesH

F%asi,i"ity and %n!i&h*%nt
(!* W!"d hist!y ha,its (
*ind and 1%y &ha""%n+%s)))
)tarting from the establishment of its distinct academic ambit in
the last three decades, *orld history has become an
increasingly inspiring course, particularly in college curricula
of 9nited )tates, of history education: it has rapidly evolved,
moving from the status of precocious upstart, in a mature
research feld, able to produce inno/ati/e teaching methods,
in addition to a clear set of purposes and a de+nite agenda.
*orld historians, specifcally, wor according to three basic
lines or analytical approaches1

K5efne ma2or societies?civilizations, trace their evolution and
interaction, use AC"'8E CO)PAR'!ON 3-the connective tissue and
crucial hermeneutic category which could permit to ac&uire some real
sense of how di>erent cultures operate4 to help mae sure that world
history doesn0t spin o> into separate and unrelated strands 1
K)how deep interest in contacts among maEor societies and
results of its occurring: the analysis expands beyond comparison
to embrace sill appropriate to understanding interactions and their
historical change 3- attention to the perennial CO).'NA"'ON O&
-OCA- AN$ *-O.A- in the diachronic development of human
societies41
K#dentify and trace larger forces that impinge on a number of
di>erent societies, even when they0re not in direct contact: invitation
to compare how di>erent societies react to these common forces, to
explore how contact relates to these larger forces 3- clarifcation of
the CO)P-E6 CA#!A"'ON O& CAN*E in its own nature, over time
and in global context4.

Lriefy, operating to capture the di/ersity and similarities of
human e0perience, world history stimulates and encourages some
fundamental &uestions:

+ow people?societies have faced global challengesM

+ow much mutual interaction represents an infuential factor in
historical evolutionM

+ow environment and spatial constructs infuence our ways to
understand and interpretate the pastM

+ow the units of analysis historians choose to investigate the past
3whether civilizations, area studies, cities, nation )tates4 infuence
the stories told about history as well as the &uestions asedM

:emarable importance of periodization in world history - preference
for global, long4term period as the uni&ue indicative dimension in
which interrogate ade&uately the past in relation to present time
Periodi1ation: vital to world history, by reason of its usefulness of
helping to identify big changes to which many societies had to
respond, that is to say the ey points at which framewors change
G-the temporal seleton that gives coherence and manageability to
historical interpretation, allowing discussion upon factors, complexities
and contingent continuities in this ind of transitionsH
-------------------------
The sudden changes that have modifed planet0s appearence in the
last half century mae still more urgent the study in depth of the
increasing e/idence of long distance interactions that cross
the boundaries of traditional scholarly speciali1ation
(eed of new interpretative, space-time coordinates, re2ecting
defnitively the categories tied to a traditional, auto-explanatory,
western model of development 3which could only produce for now a
distorted vision of history4

T$i&s and th%*ati& a!%as in
w!"d hist!y

Area studies: demand of promoting a study of world areas
traditionally marginal 3in respect to centrality of european- north
american academic paradigm41 important contribution to the
enlightenment of historical dynamics released from the
anamorphic, canonically eurocentric recount of history1
supranational perspective = emphasis on extraeuropean agency1
focus on comparativism = interdisciplinary approach1

Contact topics and ibridation in historical e0perience:

Transfer of technological nowledge1

!metissage" 3loo at cultural meetings and at products of
ibridation?interaction among di>erent societies vs. the rethoric of
!alterity" and the myth of cultural incompatibility41

!entangled history" 3- !histoire connectNe", idea of contamination
and of !entangled empires" as intricate entities characterized by
interconnections, leading to a single system or hemispheric
community41


%tlantic history 3particular interest in creative=adaptive interrelations
among di>erent people in this transitory space of circulation41

,igrations and diasporas = trade patterns 3transnational perspective,
conception of a non-conventional spatiality1 revision of the notion of
!frontier" = special focus on the concept of !net"1 recovery of the idea
of interaction among di>erent spaces and various dimensions of
historical experience1 exhaltation of the constant relationship between
local and global1 !cross-community migration"= emphasis on mobility
and globalization as dynamic processes with distinct levels of
interconnectivity and subse&uent forms of agencysm41

8nvironmental history 3energetic interdependence between anthropic
and natural history1 interest in human modifcations and interventions
on environmental space, as well as in the repercussions of these acts41

Lig history 3a total history of human existence beginning from the
origins of universe1 lin with environmental history as regars the study
of the relation between man and natural space4.

2a"an&%s and $%!s$%&ti-%s
twa!ds a n%w hist!i&a"
%!a)))
#n spite of the widespread bias and sceptical mistrust that permeate some academical ambients,
the gradual advance of wordly and globalized approaches to the study of the past reveals today
an increasing, irrepressible recognition of the reality and historical importance of
trans4ci/ili1ational encounters( #t seems plausible to predict that this will become
the mainstream of future wor in world history. %iming to provide the largest and most
inclusive framewor of human experience, and the lineal ancestor of the ;ne *orld in which we
fnd ourselves so confusingly immersed today, *orld history, in e>ect, focuses above all on the
changing dimensions of the tension between human separateness 3created initially by
the wider dispersion of the species4 and the recurrent impact and ad/antages of contact
and e0change(
This aspect, surely, continues to shape nowadays our own world.
)o, the signifcance, and strategic utility, of this historical perspective shift is entirely proved by
the actual course of human evolution. Through the construction of an integrated past that
retains /oices of di@erence, *orld history in the OAst century has the merit of proposing an
ambitious and promising challenge: support a comprehensi/e e0ploration of the e@ecti/e
2world history3, a deep and nuanced understanding of each of the /arious
cultures>states 3that have been part of the vast mosaic of human history4 and, beyond these
individual elements, also the conscious acFuisition of the entire picture, or at least a large
part of that picture. This purpose would seriously represent the only favourable way to tae part
of the present global dynamics of civilization and to penetrate the real causes and logics that
infuence, and will probably continue to infuence in the future, the historical con2uncture in
which we live .
Then, we could agree hopefully with *.,c (eill, when he aPrms that: “ ,y &nst!/&tin+ a
$%!s$i&a&i/s and a&&/!at% w!"d hist!y. hist!ians &an $"ay a *d%st ,/t /s%(/"
$a!t in (a&i"itatin+ a t"%!a,"% (/t/!% (! h/*anity as a wh"% and (! a"" its di3%!%nt
$a!ts)”

Libliography:
-'. )tearns, !*orld +istory", :outledge, OCAA
-/. 5i .iore, ,. ,eriggi, !*orld history. /e nuove rotte della storia"
-Q.5iamond, !%rmi, acciaio, malattie. Lreve storia del mondo negli
ultimi tredicimila anni", 8inaudi, OCCF
-*.+. ,c(eill, !The :ise of the *est: % +istory of the +uman
6ommunity"
-,ichael Reyer, 6harles Lright, !*orld +istory in a Rlobal %ge" The
American !istorical #eview, 7olume ACC, #ssue. S 3;ct., ADDJ4, ACES-
ACFC
-Qerry +. Lentley, !6ross-6ultural #nteraction and 'eriodization in *orld
+istory", The American !istorical #eview, 7olume ACA, no. E
3QuneADDF4: ISD-IIC.
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-%ne /intvedt, !Teaching the *orld +istory )urvey 6ourse in the OAst
6entury:
:ationales, :esearch, and Themes"
-'.:ossi, !#l senso della storia. 5al )ettecento al 5uemila", #l ,ulino,
OCAO