Fachbereich Geschichtswissenschaft

Old Europe, New World?

In search of a global history for classical antiquity and the middle-ages

One of the most vigorous developments in our discipline over the last generation has been the rise of global history. But where does that leave students of premodern societies like Greece and Rome or Medieval Europe? They belong to a period before the forces of globalization and colonialism forged the societies of the planet into an interdependent system. Global history emerged in response to the need for a less Eurocentric world history. For the age of colonialism historians have challenged old illusions that the colonies were somehow passive receptors of European power and revealed their dynamic agency in the face of colonial domination. However, for pre-colonial history, the tendency has been a shift in emphasis, with Central Asia and China moving to the centre of inquiry while Europe and antiquity have perhaps been left struggling a little more on the side. In that respect, the current view might actually represent a near reversal of the situation that used to characterize the field until very recently. But substituting one centrism for another is hardly satisfactory. The Roman Empire, after all, was too important in world history simply to be left sidelined. During my time in Tübingen I will be writing on a monograph about how to integrate the Roman Empire and Medieval Christianity in the new global history. Ancient global history needs to move beyond the pioneer stage. Paradoxically, finding a place for Rome might help us do just that.

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