Essay on World History: How Can a Discipline Remain Relevant?

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“Historians are a contentious lot. While their arguments are usually conducted in polite language, the disputations are conducted on a number of fronts at once, and the frame of mind of the disputants ranges from a sporting pleasure with making point after point to a savage determination to win the day.” Although a sense of negativity creeps into this notion of Manning’s, a strengthening of world history can also emerge from this back and forth debate. World history will take shape as scholars push each other to clarify and defend ideas, while remaining skeptical and critical readers. This debate is key to avoiding either a stagnation of ideas or a dilution of possible new insights. As Manning asserts, “The exciting debates and …show more content…
One such debate, that illuminates the excitement and contention of world history, is the comparison of the Chinese and European economies in the early modern period as it relates to the ‘rise of the west’ debate. Much scholarship has arisen out of the world history perspective surrounding the dynamism of the Chinese economy and the situation of Europe in the early modern period. Several books on the subject include: John Hobson’s The Eastern Origins of Western Civilization, Andre Gunder Frank’s ReORIENT, and Kenneth Pomeranz’s The Great Divergence. Each of these books provides an interpretation of how the west came to play such a dominant role in history, by situating Europe within the wider context of world history. Each deploys the world historical perspective of encounters and exchanges as a contributing force to this period of time. They shift the traditional focus of European ‘exceptionalism’ as the driving factor in the ‘rise of the west’, to a broader interpretation that takes the rest of the world into account. One such argument comes from John Hobson, who claims, The Europeans fed off the many pamphlets and books that flooded Europe in the seventeenth century, which in aggregate revealed the manifold technologies and advanced features of Chinese civilization. These included seed-drills and horse- hoeing husbandry, crop rotation systems, ideas that

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