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History is Global

"Global history is more than a history of globalization. Global history doeesn't only describe particular phenomenon like the history of food or the international working class movement but requires a fundamental reorientation.."

By the iz3w editors

[This editorial originally published in: iz3w (international Journal of the Third World), August 17, 2004 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.linksnet.de/artikel.php?id=1289.]

History is written, glorified and interpreted. Nearly everything turns around the nation. The nation state enacts laws, wages war and secures borders. Thus the nation state sets the framework that is filled with historical material. The national writing of history still dominates despite all the developments summarized under the term "globalization". National holidays and national days of remembrance are celebrated to recall the great deeds of the most important men of the country. Monuments honor almost exclusively one's own "casualties and victims of world wars". History books are often divided in two sections: one on one's nation and the other on the rest of the world.

One need not compare East German and West German history books to notice that the same reality and the same epoch are often judged very differently. French, British and German schoolbooks present the wars between European states totally differently. What is an epoch of discoveries in European colonial states is a long history of oppression and exploitation for the colonized countries.

The perspective changed for the first time through dependency theory on account of the recognition that history is not written "neutrally". According to the central thesis of dependencia, the development of the industrial states was based on the underdevelopment of the third world. Wealth was first created through exploitation. However this changed perspective also had its shady sides. The "oppressed" were made mere victims and history reduced to an unending sequence of oppression and exploitation. World history remained a history of nation states - even if under new signs.

However the more history is made in the inter- and transnational context, the further the process of globalization advances and the more blatant become the omissions through the national lens. Migration, trade and communication are fields that cannot be grasped in a national historiography because they move between the borders. Describing and analyzing these phenomena requires a "bird's eye-view" and an "ant's eye view". Understanding causes of flight and reasons of travel is vital for comprehending the larger developments and tendencies of migration. The experiential accounts of African slaves in the Caribbean must be combined with the analyses of the economic and political significance of slavery for European states to apprehend what slavery really was and what are its consequences.

Global history is more than a history of "globalization". Global history doesn't only fathom particular phenomena like the history of food or the international working class movement but necessitates a fundamental reorientation. Self-contained epochs or limited territories are not in the center of interest but what lies outside the spatial and temporal borders.

Historical approaches that have recently taken hold in Germany are involved in our theme "Global History". That we try to go beyond the view of the national self-interest without including authors from the South is a great deficiency. This deficiency is grounded in the existing structures of the scientific machine in which researchers from Africa and Latin America are still underrepresented and in the limited personnel and financial possibilities of the iz3w editorial team in discovering or translating these authors or sources. We would be very appreciative for references and information.

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