WHAT IS WORLD HISTORY? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM GLOBAL HISTORY?

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WHAT IS WORLD HISTORY? HOW IS IT DIFFERENT FROM GLOBAL HISTORY?


History is interpretive in nature and so is its meaning. In simplest form, it is the past we have experienced in the sense of happenings. Bruce Mazlish puts forth an added meaning of the word saying it is a conscious reconstruction and understanding of the memories and evidences of the past happenings in regard to people. James Krippner says, history means different things in different cultures and traditions.
‘World’ is something that is perceived and not something static or fixed. As Mazlish mentions, it is a reality we assume by our social and complex construction. The conceptions of ‘world’ has been changing with changing time period and society.
World comes from the Middle English for “human existence”; its central reference being the earth, including everyone and everything on it. It can also be imaginary based on a philosophical understanding like ‘next world’ (life after death), can denote levels of development (First world, Second world, Third world) and can designate the class of people (academic world).
World history
World history is “the whole history of the whole world,” without obvious principle of selection, as World History Association’s “Invitation to Membership” implies.
Bentley, the editor of The Journal of World History, has given another definition, “World history represents a dialogue between the past and the present, in that it seeks to establish a historical context for the integrated and interdependent world of modern times. “
Modernity is the condition of a social existence which is radically different of all the past forms of human experience. Modernization refers to a transnational process of moving from primitive or traditional conditions to modern society.
William McNeill, inspired by Toynbee, undertook studies of rise of the West, spread of religion and plagues, population movements, other events involving people’s interaction across borders to understand world history. Others, such as Leften S. Stavrionos, tried to encourage its institutionalization.
Ralph Linton and Robert Redfield-anthropologists influenced McNeill in his interest in “trans-civilizational encounters,” that helped him define world history as the study of “interaction among peoples of diverse cultures.” World history, thus, can be seen as the interaction between people of civilizations (mainly 4-Chinese, Egyptian, Mesopotamian, and Harappan).
Fernand Braudel talked in favor of “world systems”, i.e., worlds constructed by trade and culture. Braudel’s disciple, Wallerstein, in The Modern World-System (New York, 1976), shows in great detail how the modern commercial and capitalist world came into existence. Immanuel Wallerstein has looked at modern world as a system established around the Western capitalist expansion and analyzed it in terms of core and periphery. Columbus’ voyage occupies a central place adding a New World, basically America, through discovering long trade routes. Discoveries of new world countries continued through similar voyages.
On the same lines of world systems, Abu-Lughod has suggestively argued for an earlier “system of world trade and even cultural exchange.” Applying this approach to earlier periods, she speaks of the Roman Empire as the “first nascent world system.”
Bruce Mazlish has argued that McNeill’s world history doesn’t really have a principle of selectivity, institutionalized courses in the subject are often a pastiche, made of bits and pieces of research from all over the world, while World System analysis tends to be a rigid, doctrinaire and Procrustean in its practice, its selectivity is often ideologically determined and overly economic focused, influenced by Wallerstein’s Marxist inclinations.

Universal history, practiced by contemporaries of Herodotus, is a more than Greek history wherein other parts of the world that are known to Greeks could be included, but it was restricted to those areas which were known to the Greeks hence not doing justice to its name. It emerged with the advent of Christianity, as Bruce mentions, and declined with Roman empire with its development resuming with renaissance period in Europe. New world was discovered later with particular histories being written. According to him, the world wars and the loss of intellectual and political dominion of the West over the world are the factors that led to a rise of world history.
After World War II and the collapse of Western empire, historical sections on Asia, Africa, and other places were being added. But it looked like a patchwork done to avoid the charge of eurocentrism. David Christian says that one of the aims of World history is to see the history of human beings as a single coherent story and not as a collection of particular stories of different communities. It is as much concerned with non -literate communities as with literate communities.
There have been several ideas on the division of worlds based on different grounds. Ancient world and new world is one of them. Ancient world primarily refers to the supreme civilizations (Chinese, Mesopotamian, Egyptian and Indus valley civilization) while the new world’s beginning is considered around 16th- 17th century that was discovered by people like Columbus through sea trade routes.
Division on the basis of level of development divided countries into first, second and third worlds. Another attempted division was based on equator, above equator was the first world and below equator was the second world. This idea didn’t work for countries like Australia that should be in first world was put in the second world category. So, this idea was considered inappropriate.
According to Martinez, world history involves a movement away from European centered models, without neglecting Europe; a focus on the experience of entire societies, and not simply elite, frequently male strata; and an openness to interdisciplinary historical methods.


Global History


Global history represents an emerging experience in which, different parts of the globe and different sectors of society have had and are having different encounters with the process of globalization.
Bruce defines global history as the history of the globalization process, going as far back into the past as needed to understand the current factors driving globalization and the history of processes, such as the spread of plagues, or the rise of multinational corporations that are best studied on the global, rather than a local, national, or regional level. Global history studies the core factors of globalization. They include the step into space; the throwing up of satellites that allow for instantaneous communication; the observation from these satellites of the environmental situation as overleaping national boundaries; the use of these satellites to support the development of multinational corporations; linking computers everywhere, in the promotion and moral enforcement of human rights; and the explosion of nuclear power, both peaceful and warlike, threatening to carry with it transnational consequences.
The start of global history was on similar lines, “with our thrust into space, imposing upon us an increasing sense of being in one world “Spaceship Earth”; satellites in outer space that link the peoples of the earth; nuclear threats in the form of either weapons or utility plants, showing how the territorial state can no longer adequately protect its citizens from either military or ecologically related “invasions”; environmental problems that refuse to conform to lines drawn on a map; and multinational corporations that’s increasingly dominate our economic lives.”

Global consumerism (MNCs), human rights, globalization of cultures (K-Pop) are some of the other items that can be put in this list. Globalization is the sum of their combined presence, mentions Bruce. Thus, global history is mostly about globalization in different spheres and their interaction. Much of global history has necessarily to devote itself to studying the factors of globalization in relation to a “local” reality, which can take many forms.
There are some incidents that aren’t restricted to one location, histories that cut boundaries like ecological effects of human doings on environment aren’t confined to a particular area but are global in nature and effects earth as a whole. Similar factors constitute global history.
One of the tasks of New Global History, as specifies by Mazlish, is to add more elements in the course of research and analysis, and to refine those already given.
According to Bruce, new Global History is intended to be carried out in an interdisciplinary fashion. Economists are involved in the study of global economic development; anthropologists of the spread of global culture; sociologists and political scientists of the extension of civil society; and so forth, all working alongside of those in the discipline of History.
Global historians include adherents of both a strong and a weak interpretation. The former are convinced that globalization is ushering in a new global epoch, which replaces existing attempts to construct such periods as the post-modern or the post-industrial. The adherents of the weak interpretation abstain from divisionary schemes, and are content to study the globalization process without further claims.
On the issue of when the global epoch “began” is worth considerable attention. Some opt for the 1950s and others for the 1970s. Behind this argument is a conviction that time and space have been compressed in an unprecedented fashion. The roots of this compression reach far into the past. The development of sea vessels, from sail to steam, cutting distance and duration, forms one thread in this account. The invention of the telegraph, the laying of cables, the introduction of the telephone, and then of radio communication represent another wave of enormous changes.
The emergence of globalization was not simply a matter of science, technology, and economics; political developments were also requisite.
According to Bruce, modernization was primarily a Western imposition. Globalization, in contrast, is a global process in which numerous participants are creating a new “civilization.”
Mazlish also says, “Global history is not Whiggish.” It denotes that global history can take any shape, it cannot be predicted beforehand.
Each of the factors of globalization requires rigorous empirical study, and new actors increasingly occupy the center of the historical stage; non-governmental organizations (NGOs) such as human-rights and environmental groups, along with other third-sector organizations; multinationals, which are almost equivalent in importance to nation-states; and the United Nations (UN), in all its aspects.
Comparison between global and world history
The very first difference can be seen in the etymology of the two words, world and global. Global word is derived from a Latin word, globus, primarily meaning something spherical or rounded, a “heavenly body”, secondary meaning being the earth. It points to the direction of the space. We cannot use it like world as first globe, next globe, second globe, or academic globe. It is a collective term for all the worlds, earth as a planet and even the space around it.

When we are talking about global history, we talk about everything available on planet. It is history in totality, interaction with life beyond ‘humans’ while world history is location specific-physical space, and is human centric. As David Christian argues, world history tries to describe historical trajectory that is shared by all the humans simply because they are humans. It is about a particular species of animals i.e., humans, which is both strange and immensely influential on this earth.
While we see some divisions in world history into various parameters or levels, might be philosophical pr based on development levels, as we have discussed above, we don’t see any kind of division in global history. Whenever we are considering global history, it is in totality without any kind of division.
Another point that Bruce brings out is that while world history claims ‘whole history of the whole world’, global history only focuses on the subject matter related to globalization. However, the scope of the subject matter can be changing in course of research and theory.
New Global History is contemporary history i.e., it is more recent in nature. World history dates back to around a couple of thousand years back.
The main focus of the world history has been civilizations. But as global historians argue, civilizations do not send up rockets, operate television networks, or organize a global division of labor. Empires, the carriers of civilizations in the past, are no more; they have been replaced by nation-states. Hence, global history examines the processes that transcend the nation-state framework. Although global history is mainly transnational in its subjects of study, it would be a grave error to neglect the study of the nation as well.
Global history, though it seeks to transcend national history, is engaged nevertheless with the nation-state as a major actor on the international and global scene.
Historians are, by nature, distrustful of or indifferent to work done in other disciplines. In global history, multi- or interdisciplinary orientations move front and center. The very notion of globalization came from sociology. Future work will have to engage economists, economic historians, political scientists, and historians alike.
Conclusion
World history, the discipline that studies the history of human beings, has significance across many scales and well beyond the conventional boundaries of history discipline. Constructing a coherent history of a species as complex as ours, as David Christian mentions, is a challenge as daunting as any in modern science. It requires many types of historical research and scholarship on many different scales. But as we have concluded by comparing it to the global history that it is all about humans and their history, while global history covers the planet and the space around it, each and everything existing on it as a whole, in totality.
Obfuscation also enters into the differences between world and global history, world history practitioners sometimes like to refer to their work as global history, using the latter as a synonym for world. This obfuscates the differences between the two, and represents more an imperialistic claim than a well-thought out analytic position.
Greater definitional precision will allow each subfield of history, the world and the global, to flourish independently. We need to keep a boundary check when studying world and global history as they clearly have a significant difference, despite existing on the same spectrum.

Kanak Sharma is a graduate from Miranda House in History and Political Science. She is honest, cheerful, responsible and friendly and likes to read, dance and introspect. She strongly believes in spirituality. Peace and fairness are the two things she sought in life as end goals. She has a long list of skills she wants to learn in life. With the motto "Right means would eventually lead to right end", she strives to be an asset for the society and the nation. 

Kanak Sharma
Writer

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