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Historiographical traditions and modern imperatives for the restoration of global history

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 March 2006

Patrick O’Brien
Department of Economic History, London School of Economics and Political Science, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK E-mail: p.o’


This essay has been written to serve as a prolegomenon for a new journal in Global History. It opens with a brief depiction of the two major approaches to the field (through connexions and comparisons) and moves on to survey first European and then other historiographical traditions in writing ‘centric’ histories up to the times of the Imperial Meridian 1783–1825, when Europe’s geopolitical power over all other parts of the world became hegemonic. Thereafter, and for the past two centuries, all historiographical traditions converged either to celebrate or react to the rise of the ‘West’. The case for the restoration of Global History rests upon its potential to construct negotiable meta-narratives, based upon serious scholarship that will become cosmopolitan in outlook and meet the needs of our globalizing world.

© London School of Economics and Political Science

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I am honoured to have been asked by the Editors to write a prolegomenon for the first issue of this new journal in global history. I congratulate Cambridge University Press and the London School of Economics and Political Science for their courage in acting as its patrons. I thank the Editors and my colleagues, Kent Deng and Gareth Austin, for help with this essay, which, like so many academic publications, is virtually a collective endeavour.