World History Connected Home    
Home List journal issues Table of contents
Printer-friendly format          

Book Review


Hopkins, A.G., editor. Globalization in World History (W.W. Norton, 2002). 263 pp, $22.05.

     This book is essential for all high school and college instructors who teach the World History survey because it examines globalization in its full historical context. The authors argue that globalization took four different forms over the past three centuries: archaic (the era before industrialization and the nation-state); proto-industrialization (1600-1800); modern (1800: industrialization and the rise of the nation-state); and post-colonial (1950 to present). These periods are not fixed, but rather overlap and interact with each other. By categorizing globalization in this manner, the authors have eliminated the tendency to perceive globalization as simply the "rise of the West," but rather as "a truly global history of globalization." (p. 3) Thus, the eleven chapters which comprise this volume emphasize the contribution of non-Western forms of globalization over the ages. 1
     A. G. Hopkins, the editor, calls on historians to become fully engaged in the topic of globalization, which has heretofore been left to economists, political scientists, and sociologists. Unlike other studies on globalization, this book claims to be the first "written entirely by historians." (p. 2). Cambridge University funded the collaborative project that was written, primarily, by Cambridge faculty. Scholars who favor global topics, connections, and cross-cultural encounters will especially appreciate chapter one, "Globalization Œ An Agenda for Historians" and chapter two, "The History of Globalization and the Globalization of History?" These chapters, both written by Hopkins, offer historians new ideas for fruitful areas of research such as the historian's unique ability to argue for or against the novelty of globalization, as well as the opportunity for world historians to frame new questions about history. 2
     Unlike many collections of disparate essays that tout a shared theme, the eleven essays in this book actually achieve the promise of cohesiveness. For example, in chapter three, C.A. Bayly argues that the agents of archaic globalization—tribal leaders, sea-borne merchant communities, and land caravans—should be seen as integral dimensions of the later Euro-American dominated world economy. He goes on to say that the elements of proto-globalization, chiefly the emergence of the Atlantic plantation system, subsumed all older economic mechanisms through expanded markets and consumption. Non-Europeans, he argues, were active participants in this process. In chapter four, Amira Bennison also investigates a non-Western world-system, the Islamic world, as a precursor and contributor to contemporary globalization. She examines the "universalizing elements" of Islam, such as the umma (the universal Muslim community) and the Arabic language, which "had a profound influence across the Islamic lands and acted as a vehicle for archaic Muslim globalization." (p. 75). 3
     In chapter five, Richard Drayton focuses on human labor—"the key to globalizations" (p. 100)—in the early modern Atlantic world, while a chapter by Tony Ballantyne (chapter six) argues that cultural aspects of globalization, such as the spread of knowledge, merits greater attention by historians. Hans van de Ven (chapter eight) explores the underside of globalization from the perspective of the Southern hemisphere, including a clear sense of the global past: slavery, conquest, underdevelopment, and cultural annihilation. John Lonsdale (chapter nine) highlights a problem with writing world history as the "rise of the West." Such a framework, he argues, ignores the linkages created between China, Southeast Asia, and Japan long before "the arrival of the West and the importance of these to the development of European empires, providing, for instance, the largest market for Spanish silver" (p. 170). In chapter ten, A.G. Hopkins examines commonalities between modern and post-colonial globalization in two discrete regions: Bali and Labrador. 4
     The last chapter in this collection, David Reynold's "American Globalization: Mass, Motion, and the Multiplier Effect," examines the historical roots of American globalization in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries through its connections to the proto-globalization of the Atlantic world, and in the nineteenth century via the economic and political integration of the Union. Reynolds persuasively argues that twentieth- century American globalism was distinctive because of the United States' ability to exploit modern technologies. It did so, he argues, through mass, motion, and the multiplier effect. "Mass" refers to both the "age of masses" (democratic politics, consumer economies, and popular culture) and the sheer size and stability of the United States in the twentieth century. During this time, mass destruction, mass consumption, and mass culture were all achieved through the motion of mass production and mass communications. This American globalization was historically distinct, argues Reynolds, because an enormous unified entity "mobilized globally through the unprecedentedly large multiplier effect of modern technologies" (p. 263). By placing contemporary American globalization in its historical context, dimensions other than economics are given their due consideration. Reynolds highlights the political and social frameworks that buttressed American globalization as well as the relationship between national and international developments. 5
     Globalization in World History supports earlier works that identify non-Western "world-systems" earlier that 1500 A.D., such as Janet Abu-Lughod's Before European Hegemony or K.N. Chaudhuri's Asia Before Europe. The volume is an important contribution to world history because the authors assess the past from a global, rather than national, perspective. It calls upon historians to contribute to the current debate on globalization and, furthermore, it asks what the discussion on globalization can add to historical inquiry in general. This question underscores the merits of world history scholarship, which features methods and approaches that promote alternative ways of assessing the past from a non-national perspective. 6
Mary Jane Maxwell
Washington State University

Home | List Journal Issues | Table of Contents
© 2004 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
Content in World History Connected is intended for personal, noncommercial use only. You may not reproduce, publish, distribute, transmit, participate in the transfer or sale of, modify, create derivative works from, display, or in any way exploit the World History Connected database in whole or in part without the written permission of the copyright holder.

Terms and Conditions of Use