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Introduction: The Challenge of World History

Douglas Northrop

Subject International Business » Globalization
Study of History » Historiography

Place World

Key-Topics archives and documents, historians, research, sources

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444334180.2012.00001.x


What do historians see – and what do they miss? It depends, of course, on how any particular historian chooses to look. She or he must first decide on a time and place to investigate, identify sources to serve as evidence, and pose questions to ask about them. Each choice is shaped by a scholar's training – the way they learned the craft of “history.” Usually this happens at an academic institution, through formal education in one or more clearly defined “fields” French history, African history, early modern history, the history of science, and so on. Experienced scholars convey their expertise to students, carefully preparing the next generation of historians, honing linguistic skills and imparting deep knowledge of particular archives, libraries, and publications. New historians thus emerge well versed in their area's theoretical, methodological, and historiographical debates – at least as these are understood at their academic institution, located in its own geographic and cultural context, and at a certain point in time. But what happens if these institutional and intellectual pathways are disrupted – if historical questions are asked in new ways, stretching across the boundaries of the existing fields? Can time and space be stretched, as in Map I.1 , and historians take a new, broader, perspective? Map I.1  On a typical world map, such as the classic Mercator projection, Greenland ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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