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Global Early Modernity?

Global Early Modernity? (MPhil in World History)

WH MPhil - Early Modernity (small)

Flows of capital and of labor, exchange of ideas and commodities, destruction of environments, expansion of empire: is this the face of globalization in our own time, or in earlier centuries as well? This Mphil Option examines how and to what end historians can conceive of a ‘global early modernity’. It investigates the analytical frameworks and the historical processes that have made the period 1400-1800 appear to be a new, global age.

The course begins with a discussion of concepts, periodization, and geography. In weeks one and two, we will consider the histories of and assumptions behind the projects of ‘early modern’ and ‘global’ history, especially the influence of the social sciences. But we will also study how these concepts have changed as historians studying various parts of the world have adopted and adapted them. Have global frameworks helped us to ‘provincialize’ Europe, or have they allowed European expectations to colonize other historiographical fields?

Subsequent classes will address the political, economic, social, and cultural developments seen as foundational to global early modernity. How did early modern transformations differ from nineteenth- and twentieth-century ‘globalizations’? What role did empires play in forging early modern global connections? How did travel and exchange affect local systems of thought? As we examine these arenas, we will discuss various approaches to global history (comparative, connected, microhistorical, material, etc.), and the methodological challenges of each.

Class topics will include:

  • Early Modernity
  • From Archaic to Modern Globalization
  • Global Empire
  • Global Exchange
  • Global Knowledge
  • Global Religion
  • Global Environments
  • The Great Divergence 

Each week, students will read a combination of required and optional texts. While required readings will take students to many different parts of the world, optional readings allow them to focus on a particular region. Class participants will write weekly reading responses and a 2000-word final essay on a topic related to their research.