Recent decades have seen the re-emergence and, on an unprecedented scale, the further development of various interacting strands of world, global and transnational history, all sharing the common aim of transcending national historiographies. Central to these intellectual enterprises has been the study of connections and comparisons. These perspectives provide for sustained reflection on a great variety of themes and studies. Under the framework of “Connections and Comparisons” about 100 panels presented new findings on research topics, including the following:
- Entanglements between polities, societies, communities and individuals situated in, or spanning, different regions of the world
- Interactions between humanity and the environment, including those which developed over the very long term, through the cultural and economic histories of material and social life
- Histories of empires, large-scale crises, international organisations, and the intercontinental sources and consequences of revolutions, whether political, technological, social or ideological
- Exchanges on oceans as spaces of sustained interaction between communities from different continents, the experience and consequences of migration, periods of ‘de-globalisation’ and ‘globalisation’
Not least, this included a critical reflection on the methodological and conceptual issues involved in comparative, transnational and entangled histories: both in general terms as well as in relation to specific areas of historical inquiry, from religions to real wages and from diasporas to epistemic communities. The common emphasis was a commitment to transcend national historiographies and explore different approaches to wide-ranging comparisons. The program of the congress can be downloaded here.
The first congress was held in 2005 in Leipzig with about 300 participants from all over Europe and other parts of the world, meeting in almost 50 panels. Three purposes guided the three day conference:
- giving a broad overview of the numerous efforts in various European countries, not only with respect to research questions, but also with regard to how world and global history is or should be taught at schools and universities
- stimulating a discussion about the intellectual traditions of world history writing, which are viewed in various European countries as a positive reference or as the background for the current debates in world and global history
- addressing fundamental methodological questions of today’s global history writing since, especially from a European perspective, world history has to confront the long tradition of Eurocentric thinking and to explore new ways of analysing the relationship between Europe and extra-European regions, as well as reflecting on the role of Europe or its nation states in international organizations and global networks.
The opening speeches were given by Prof. Michael Geyer (University of Chicago) and Prof. Patrick O’Brien (London School of Economics). The closing event was a round table discussion with William Clarence-Smith (SOAS London), Patrick Fridenson (EHESS Paris), Alexander Nützenadel (Universität zu Köln), Hannes Siegrist (Universität Leipzig) and Peer Vries (Universiteit Leiden). Reports on most of the panel discussions are published in an issue of the journal “Historical Social Research” (May 2006) as well as in the online-forum ‘history.transnational’.The program and report of the congress can be downloaded here.