Tobunken Semnar "The field of Global History in Germany – temporary fashion or lasting transformation of historiography?"

January 30 (Mon), 17:00-19:00

1st Meeting Room, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia, The University of Tokyo

Andreas Eckert (Professor, The Institute for Asian and African Studies, The Humboldt University of Berlin)

The field of Global History in Germany – temporary fashion or lasting transformation of historiography?

   Lisa Hellman氏(IASA, U-Tokyo()

  “The truly strange thing about Germany is,” as the Chicago historian Michael Geyer observed some ten years ago, “that German lands and their peoples have been so deeply entangled with the world and, yet, Germans, and German historians at that, have such tremendous difficulties in coming to term with that fact and its consequences.” Indeed, in the decades after World War II, German historians displayed a particularly strong focus on the German nation-state. It is particularly the dark shadows cast by the Nazi past, that for a long time made approaches beyond the nation-state appear less relevant or even problematical in the eyes of many German historians. Coming to terms with the Nazi heritage and creating an apt historical consciousness for a liberal democratic culture has certainly been the main concern of historical research on the modern period. Topics like colonialism that would have implied a broader (although not automatically global) perspective on German history remained peripheral. As the German colonial empire was short-lived and economically marginal, there were obviously no reasons for German historians to explore the potential of this field of research. Things changed considerably. The focus on colonialism and imperialism is now one of the main tools to look at the German past from new global, transregional, and comparative angles. At German history departments and especially among students and younger scholars, global history is en vogue. A number of introductory books, collective volumes and monographs dedicated to global history approaches have been published over the last years; the arguably most visible book series in this field, founded in 2007, already includes 23 volumes, a number of them originated from Ph.D dissertations. Some books by German based historians written in or translated into English quickly became internationally renowned key texts in Global History. This is especially true for Jürgen Osterhammel’s monumental global history of the nineteenth century, but also for Sebastian Conrad’s assessment of the field. A number of new study programs devoted to global history (or more generally to global studies) attract many students from all over the world. In this paper I will present how especially in recent years, global history writing in Germany took part in the “global movement” to displace Eurocentrism of both agency and concept. In this context, it is important to emphasize, that the global history movement in Germany not only gained momentum from good intentions, intellectual declarations and the energy of a number of historians. During the past years, a growing institutional and financial fundament has been built that supported a further expansion of historical research at a global and transnational level. It is yet unclear how stable this fundament is, but without any doubt global historical perspectives gained an important place within the historiographical landscape of Germany within a rather short period of time. The global turn might lose some of its dynamics, but the insights and perspectives that came with will continue to shape historical research and teaching in Germany.