Why Global History?
Global history – the search to understand how human societies have developed as an interactive community across the world – has come into its own as a scholarly enterprise at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Whether we describe the epoch in which we live as one, for example, of Asia’s reemergence, intensified migrations, religious revivals, an epidemic of social networking, or climate change that challenges us all, a global perspective on historical development is required to make sense of it. Spurred by ongoing processes of globalization and drawing on students and researchers better trained in languages and social science methods than ever before, global history flourishes as one of the most important developments in the discipline of history today.
WIGH was founded in 2012 by Professors Sven Beckert and Charles S. Maier, through a grant from the Weatherhead Center for International Affairs at Harvard University. The Initiative was envisioned as a program to strengthen programmatic cohesion for the strength and diversity that the Harvard history and social science departments already bring to global history approaches. Since its inception, WIGH has hosted visiting scholars and postdoctoral fellows from all over the world, including Brazil, India, Senegal, China, Colombia, Italy, and Germany. We have organized international conferences on soccer as a global phenomenon, agricultural labor, global history of prisons, and global responses E.P. Thompson’s legacy. WIGH also hosts a biweekly “Approaches to Global History” seminar, bringing together interested faculty, students, and WIGH fellows on a continuing basis.
Beyond Harvard, WIGH has embedded its activities in a Global History Network of global historians. In order to make debates on global history truly global, WIGH has partnered with the Université Cheikh Anta Diop in Dakar, Senegal; the Institute for Social History, Amsterdam; East China Normal University, Shanghai, China; the University of São Paulo, Brazil, and Delhi University in India. Each of these centers, in turn, serves as a regional hub to encourage conversations and research on global history. Within that network, we facilitate graduate student and young faculty members spending a semester as a “Global Fellow” at one of the network institutions, and we also encourage the organization of joint academic meetings and joint courses.
In addition to leadership from co-chairs Beckert and Maier, the Initiative is guided by an interdisciplinary steering committee of Harvard faculty, representing history, anthropology, and area studies, as well as the Harvard Business School, the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and the Harvard Graduate School of Design. WIGH is currently securing long term funding, and is partially funded by a grant from the Volkswagen Foundation.