On Saturday 4th June, Professor Jürgen Osterhammel of the University of Konstanz and Ohio State History Professor Geoffrey Parker led a graduate student workshop at the Scottish Centre for Global History at the University of Dundee on 'Writing Global History and Its Challenges'. During the workshop they explored a range of methodological issues with respect to Global History.
Along with our own Professor Alice Conklin, graduate students and academic staff from the Universities of Dundee, Edinburgh and St. Andrews attended the workshop.
The workshop consisted of three discussion sessions, each focused on a different theme. The focal question was to what extent, and how Global History required adjustments of “normal” historiographical methodologies and epistemologies. They discussed the lack of conceptualization of Global History (who is going to map the field?), and the fact that historians share the conceptual space with, for example, economists, whose understanding of globalization is very different from our own. For those of us who are not terribly interested in theoretical niceties, is it sufficient to simply regard Global History as one approach among many? They agreed that Global History focuses in particular on the reconstruction of webs of connections across large spaces and/or long timespans. We should try to avoid writing ‘feel-good’ history, though. In the case of empires, many of the exchanges across space and time were ordered in a hierarchical fashion --metropoles profiting from peripheral spaces, for example-- and imposed by certain groups of people on others, resulting in, for example, the dispossession of the native and/or the enslavement or extermination of indigenous peoples. As historians, we should also ask ourselves the question what we do about peoples or areas that were (or are) non-connected, local, and remote. Where does globalization end? As always, in working through these problems, the fruitful discussions generated more questions than answers.
The event was organized by Dr Martine van Ittersum and Dr Felicia Gottmann, and co-sponsored by the Universities of Dundee and St. Andrews, the CUP journal Itinerario, and the Carnegie Trust for the Universities of Scotland.