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Book Review


Ross E. Dunn, Laura J. Mitchell, and Kerry Ward, eds., The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers. Second Edition. Oakland: University of California Press, 2016. Pp xiv + 640. Index. $ 44.95 (paper).


     The New World History: A Field Guide for Teachers and Researchers, edited by Ross Dunn, Laura Mitchell, and Kerry Ward, and published by the University of California Press, provides a thoroughly revised and updated version of Dunn's earlier book with the same title (published in 2000 by Bedford). This new edition features forty-four essays in ten chapters. In many ways it is a different book as many of the writings sampled in this volume were not in the prior edition, which was organized in eleven parts and had fifty-seven essays. There is some overlap between the two volumes. They both focus, for example, on issues such as regions, comparative history, and periodization in world history. The recent collection, however, largely avoids the debate of the need to replace the western civilization survey courses with world history surveys or discussions about the future of world history, which were central to the earlier volume. Yet as was the case with the book published in 2000, the contributors to the 2016 edition explore pedagogy, methods, and the development, as well as critiques, of the way world history is researched and taught in the United States.

     While it is an impossible challenge to capture a book of forty-four essays in a short review, Dunn, Mitchell, and Ward are providing us with a valuable, sophisticated, and well-organized selection of papers written by many leading experts in the field. The essays offer distinguished analyses, pertinent questions, and plenty of food for thought. While scholars with an expertise in world history will be likely familiar with many of the arguments, it is important to have a central depository of essays, that organizes these arguments and outlines the field's central debates. Thus, The New World History will be a valuable source on the shelves of historians trained in the field, and it will also be useful and informative introduction for graduate students or professionals hoping to learn more about the field of world history.

     The New World History is a tour de force. The introduction gives a succinct and clear summary of the history of the field, examines the "dimension" of teaching and learning world history, looks at the institutions, and sets the stage for the following ten chapters. Chapter One, with contributions by Craig Lockard, Gilbert Allardyce, and Edmund Burke III, examines the early scholars and intellectual history of the world history movement in the United States. This chapter also has an essay by Marnie Hughes-Warrington that examines how world historians have "overlooked" the history of "pre-twentieth-century women" (39). The topic of women and gender in world history are also thoughtfully covered in later chapters in essays by Merry Wiesner-Hanks and Judith Zinsser. The essays in Chapter Two contribute "to the defining and refining of the of the world history project" (91). Alongside Wiesner-Hanks' writings on women, gender, and sexuality, Marshall Hodgson's piece examines the utility of interregional perspectives when studying world history; an essay by the late William McNeill critically reassesses his influential book The Rise of the West twenty-five years after its initial publication; and, Jerry Bentley argues that "an ecumenical history" is a "moral duty of the historical profession in our time" (146). The four papers in Chapter Three set the history of various regions (the Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, Southeast Asia, and the United States) in a world historical context. Chapter Four helps us to critically rethink space in the context of world history with pieces such as Lynda Shaffer's "Southernization," Martin Lewis' and Karen Wigen's "The Architecture of Continents," Rainer Buschmann's "Oceans in World History," and Alison Game's influential "Atlantic History: Definitions, Challenges, and Opportunities." Hence, this chapter pairs two seminal essays (Shaffer and Lewis/Wigen) with two that analyze two fields that have gained increasing scholarly attention in the past two decades. Issues about periodization, the value that a better understanding of carbon dating and other scientific methods can bring to our understanding of history and "pre-history" are examined in the contributions by Jerry Bentley, David Northrup, and David Christian in Chapter Five. The selection of papers in Chapter Six, by Michael Adas, Patrick Manning, Lauren Benton, and Kenneth Pomeranz, complicate our understanding of the historiography of comparative history as it relates to the field. Adas and Benton engage with the question if comparative inquiry is part of the world historian's tool box or a separate mode of analysis. Are case-study comparisons the only mode of comparative inquiry? The essays by Manning and Pomeranz encourage us to think about comparisons more broadly. The contributions in Chapter Seven tackle a question that has dominated debate in the field of world history for a while: the issue of Western power. The essays by Pomeranz, Joseph Bryant, Jack Goldstone, and Prasannan Parthasarathi take us inside this ongoing debate. Chapter Eight looks especially at environmental world history and Big History, two areas that have received interest in the last decade or so. Essays in Chapter Nine tackle the issue of global history and the history of globalization. The papers in Chapter Ten raise interesting critiques, questions, and thoughts about the state of the field.

     The New World History provides a significant contribution to the field. The chapters provide important insights into the debates, developments, complexity, and growth that have occurred in world history. The editors provide a useful sampling of essays that should serve as a valuable resource for instructors of world history at the college and secondary level. The book can also serve as a good navigational tool for those scholars interested in venturing into world history as an area of research by helping them to think about ways to frame their work. Given its organizational structure, the book also would work well in an upper-level undergraduate course focusing on world history theory and practice or a graduate world history seminar, as the selection of articles provide a great basis for discussion. The book is a compilation of pertinent arguments, and should spur discussion among world historians and scholars with an interest in this subject. The New World History will likely be relevant to historians with an interest in the subject for years to come.

Christoph Strobel teaches at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. He can be reached at


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