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Editor's Message

Marc Jason Gilbert

     "Organizing World History," the Forum for the February 2018 issue of World History Connected is in many ways unlike any other.  Whereas previous issues have featured Forums and individual articles on "how" to structure a course world history, few have taken as adventurous and challenging an  approach as to how to organize world history itself.  Forum guest editor Rick Szostak and his colleagues have sought to identify principles for organizing world history that "do not force us to simplify world history in order to comply with some meta-narrative," and also "do not interrupt narrative flow" as historians inside and out of the classroom "discuss individual events or processes in world history.  What we want . . . is to achieve greater coherence in world history without sacrificing the complexity inherent in the subject matter." 

     Each article meets these desiderata while exploring devices both familiar and novel, including flow charts, formulaic analysis, and graphic displays of network-hierarchy tension, while addressing over-arching themes, such as Jonathan Reynold's exploration of motion as an organizing principle in world history. In the process they open new vistas on even the most prosaic of world historical analysis, such as periodization.  Throughout, each article stimulates thinking, deepens world historical understandings, and manages to be both accessible and challenging.

     The two articles in our Articles section take a closer look at some enduring subjects and approaches through analyses rich in narrative content.  Thomas Gidney puts the British textile center of Norwich at the center of debates over the validity of world systems theory through a "the world as seen in a small village in Africa" approach that takes the reader into the North Sea, to Flanders, the Baltic, Cape Cod and to India, while tracing the impact of the plague and even European crusades and rebellions on the development of Norwich textiles, from "worsted" wool to paisley patterns.  Justin Vance, who has written for World History Connected on the subject of the impact of the American Civil War on Hawaii joins with Anita Manning and Jacob Otwell to illuminate both the local effects and global reach of the "Battle of Pohnpei" of April 1, 1865, when the Confederate raider Shenandoah captured and sank three U.S. flagged ships and one ship flying the flag of the independent Kingdom of Hawaii at the island of Pohnpei (now one of the four states of the Federated States of Micronesia). The authors dutifully explore the many controversies that surround the Shenandoah's operations, which include a 30-year global legal dispute over compensation for loses of the ships it seized in Pohnpei that came to include a U. S. Senate Hearing and reached the British Foreign Office before it helped define the rights of neutral shipping in wartime. Moreover, they also investigate the impact the battle had on the indigenous population and the Pacific whaling industry; the first, damaging and the second, fatal.

     This issue also features what is hoped to be a recurring section, a revival of current senior editor Tom Laichas' interviews with world historians many years ago.  John Maunu interviews Stewart Gordon, author of a number of poplar works on long distance trade and related subjects, eliciting his views on how he became interested in world history and where he hopes to see the field develop in terms of scholarship and teaching.

     Our book editor, Christina Skwiot continues her unbroken string of gathering books and book reviewers examining wide-ranging topics of interest of world historians in all interests and levels of instruction. This issue includes reviews of a life of an Ottoman Spy and David Christian's latest work on Big History. Please consult our list of Book Available for review and feel free to recommend books you would like to review/see reviewed.

     Finally, World History Connected has of late been receiving Forum proposals now in the pipeline, such as on gender and the Vikings in World History. We also have been receiving individual papers that soon will be gathered up into Forums due to their common content or approaches.  However, we would very much like to receive more individual articles for our articles section, particularly regarding sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and Southeast Asia in world history, which are not the subjects of planed Forums in the near future, though that depends on contributors!

     World History Connected now has an annual readership 1.85 million who visit the website and peruse at least two articles.  Its editors and publisher are grateful for your support and hope you will join us by contributing articles and serving as peer reviewers.

     I hope to see some of our readers at the World History Association's annual meeting in June for feedback and conversation.

Marc Jason Gilbert, Editor
Hawai'i Pacific University

Marc Jason Gilbert is Professor of History and National Endowment for the Humanities Endowed Chair in World History at Hawai'i Pacific University. He can be reached at

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