All posts by Timothy Nunan

Jürgen Osterhammel Delivers 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture on “Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today”

Jürgen Osterhammel, Professor of History at the University of Konstanz and author of The Transformation of the World, used the 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture to speak to the legacy of historian Arnold Toynbee.

Delivering his lecture to a full audience of attendees of the American Historical Association’s 2017 Annual Convention in Denver, Colorado, Osterhammel sought to pay tribute to the British historian by following the example of Joseph Schumpeter’s 1926 tribute to the economist Gustav von Schmoller (Gustav von Schmoller and the Problems of Today), first locating Toynbee in his twentieth century context and then exploring the ways in which the global historiography had changed since Toynbee’s death in 1975.

Beginning his remarks, Osterhammel noted the paradox any historian has to deal with in Toynbee’s career: by the late 1960s, Toynbee was hailed by some “as the greatest historian alive” and enjoyed a global celebrity. He was frequently asked to comment on major world events, such as the civil war in Nigeria in the late 1960s.

Yet Toynbee’s reputation among academic historians was much more divided. This, in Osterhammel’s view, had little to do with the fact that Toynbee’s crowning accomplishment was his mammoth A Study of History. While many academic historians had turned their back on large world histories written for general audiences like Will and Ariel Durant’s The Story of Civilization, mainstream successful scholars like the Austrian art historian Ernst Gombrich did not harm, and even enhanced their reputation, through works like A Little History of the World. And while he did not enjoy the popular celebrity of Toynbee, many of the works of French Annales historian Fernand Braudel – think Civilisation matérielle, économie et capitalisme (XVe–XVIIIe siècles) – show a similar engagement with the world as a subject. All of these examples of attempts at writing world history, explained Osterhammel, show that we need to go deeper to understand Toynbee and shifts in the writing of world history in the twentieth century.

One answer to the puzzle, continued Osterhammel, might have to do with the ways in which Toynbee did (or did not) provide models for others, or engage the social sciences. In his master work, The Meditteranean in the Age of Philip II, Fernand Braudel, for example, “provided a model of how to analyze a large geographical space where several civilizations coexisted and interacted. Models are always easier to apply and to adapt than theorems and even general laws. This explains why a Braudelian perspective was highly influential and could easily be modified for the study of other seascapes and, in general, vast spaces all over the world.” Similarly, whereas a Braudel engaged explicitly with the different layers of time organizing the Mediterranean economy, Toynbee’s work was less oriented toward producing “useful distinctions rather than elaborate theories.” Particularly in an age marked by the ascent of the social sciences, Toynbee remained more oriented toward the master narratives of an Oswald Spengler, rather than the kinds of social science dialogues with figures like Immanuel Wallerstein that embedded Braudel’s work into multiple academic settings.

Hence, even though Toynbee was widely sought after by the Press, he “was never appointed to a big chair in the British university system or a leading position in an Oxbridge college.” Within the British scene, he remained an outsider compared to figures like G. M. Trevelyan, Lewis Namier, or Kenneth Clark. For students of Osterhammel’s generation, who were exposed to “political globality” via the Vietnam War, the Frankfurt School, and dependencia theorists like Eduardo Galeano, Toynbee remained remote. When Osterhammel studied East Asian history in London with the British historian Ian Nish, for example, “world history” as such was more a political project that one engaged with through the study of non-Western cultures, rather than through explicit engagement with the kind of Geschichtsphilosophie embodied by Toynbee’s work.

In light of all of this, Osterhammel sought to explain Toynbee’s ongoing importance for global historians, in spite of this ambiguous reputation he enjoyed among academic audiences in the 1970s. For one, explained Osterhammel, Toynbee’s reputation was to a large extent saved by the English schoolmaster David Churchill Somervell. Beyond Somervell’s own activities as the Master of Tonbridge School (the alma mater of 2016 Toynbee Prize winner Christopher Bayly) and his own historical writing, Somervell excelled as a condenser of other historians’ works. His condensed version of the original twelve-volume A Study of History made Toynbee accessible to lay raders. More than just an excision of select material, Somervell’s abridged version of A Study “is arranged systematically in a way requiring careful study and puzzling the unprepared reader. It is hard to imagine what to expect behind chapter headings such as “The Stimulus of Hard Countries” or “The Mechanicalness of Mimesis.” Why such a complex theoretical work became a bestseller among the less adventurous as well is not difficult to explain. Somervell’s resistance to popularization put the abridgement in a relation to the original like that of a bottle of brandy to a cellar full of good white wine. In other words, you get the value at a fraction of cost and effort. Whether read or resting untouched on the shelf: the high-proof digest preserves the mystique of the original.”

Secondly, explained Osterhammel’s, A Study of History found a welcome audience in the post-war West. “He offered a comprehensive world-view suitable for liberals and moderate conservatives in the US-dominated West. The integrative scope of his vision – Big (or biggish) History avant la lettre – in a way distracted from the horrors of the recent past and assigned everyone a legitimate place in the great drama of civilizational evolution. This is why he had many admirers in West Germany. For some, Toynbee’s ideas served to counter the only other historiographical grand design pitched at the same level of generality: the Marxist drama of class struggle, modes of production and imperialist exploitation. Yet, intellectual Marxism had been bled white under Stalin’s tyranny and offered few attractions until the rise of a less arid neo-Marxism in the 1960s.” In this climate of anti-Marxism and a desire for postwar stability, it was no wonder why Toynbee found many admirers in both the postwar West as well as among developmentalist elites in the Third World.

While one might criticize Toynbee’s lack of intellectual precision compared to contemporaries like Raymond Aron, Ralf Dahrendorf, or George Kennan, all things being equal, he performed well at the task of a “spokesperson who prove the usefulness and legitimacy of ‘soft’ disciplines to people who have no time to read books.” In doing so, even this “the media virtuoso disguised as a quaint English professor” created crucial space and legitimacy for young German academics of Osterhammel’s generation who labored under a much more structured set of research programs and who were trying to carve out a legitimate space for themselves at the margins of a field still very much focused on European history.

Beyond these more proximate reasons for Toynbee’s success and relevance, however, Osterhammel noted the implicit theoretical contributions to the field in Toynbee’s work. Toynbee, he noted, “did not really care for globality as such: His preferred levels of analysis were intermediate structures, large spaces, civilizational ecumenes, empires. Many of us, too, feel more comfortable with such units than with the planet as a whole.” “Civilization” may seem too sloppy a category for historians writing today, Osterhammel noted that scholars of global history still often find themselves reaching for macro-units of narrative as they seek to avoid narratives centered around the nation-state. Perhaps rather than dismissing Toynbee’s use of “civilization” as a core unit of analysis, we might see him as the progenitor to discussions about the proper use of scale in global history narratives – discussions, noted Osterhammel, continued most profitably since by the late Shmuel Eisenstadt and Johann Arnason.

Some aspects of Toynbee’s work have, Osterhammel noted, been passed by as the discipline of global history has moved on since the 1970s. While Toynbee’s work was more interested in comparisons between different world civilizations, since the 1990s, scholars of global history have increasingly embraced a model more centered around transfers and connections. At the same time, Toynbee’s work (including his day-to-day work as the Director of the Royal Institute for International Affairs for decades) reminds us that these new global historical approaches need to engage the problem of international order and organized violence if they hope to attract audiences and interest. “Toynbee,” he noted, “would be surprised that global history and international history have parted ways. For some readers, a long chapter in my Transformation of the World on international orders and war appeared as a superfluous relic of an out-of-date type of historiography. “

Yet, Osterhammel continued, this kind of engagement with problems of war and piece is essential to any global history research agenda. “The most pressing problems of global significance – above all, climate change and nuclear armament – cannot be solved by the benign working of global governance alone. They still require the old instruments of inter-state diplomacy. Toynbee knew all about it. So did Raymond Aron and George F. Kennan, and so does Sir Brian Urquhart–at age 97, the oldest living member of our imaginary Toynbee Prize club.” While we might engage in theoretical reflections about the future of our field while eschewing some of Toynbee’s concepts, Osterhammel concluded, we still might emulate his hard-nosed interest in speaking plainly to “the burning issues of war, peace and the military” that could not but interest Toynbee (who lived through both World Wars) but do not today occupy a central preoccupation of the discipline. Citing the title of one of Toynbee’s later (but less well-known) books, Surviving the Future (1971), Osterhammel suggested that historians look to Toynbee’s legacy as they seek to make sense of a world threatened by global warming, international terrorism, and the breakdown of the post-1945 world order. “It is,” Osterhammel concluded, “with [Toynbee’s] encouragement that we should now turn to the task ahead: surviving the future.”

As this year’s Toynbee Prize Winner, Osterhammel joins a distinguished roll of previous Toynbee Prize recipients: the diplomat and historian George Kennan, the social scientist Albert Hirschman, and, more recently, fellow historians Natalie Zemon Davis, William McNeill, Christopher Bayly, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. Most recently, the Foundation has awarded the Toynbee Prize to University of Chicago historian Dipesh Chakrabarty (2015) and the late Christopher Bayly (2016). The next Toynbee Prize will be awarded at the American Historical Association Annual Convention in 2019, in accordance with the Foundation’s tradition of alternating its activities at the AHA Annual Convention between the Toynbee Prize Lecture and a sponsored panel on global history.

The full text of Osterhammel’s  Toynbee Prize Lecture has been published in Issue 60 (Spring 2017) of the German Historical Institute Bulletin.

“Laudatio Jürgen Osterhammel” – Introductory Remarks for the 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture (Dominic Sachsenmaier)

Laudatio Jürgen Osterhammel

Dominic Sachsenmaier (President, Toynbee Prize Foundation)

January 6, 2017
Annual Convention of the American Historical Association

It is my great honor to introduce this year’s Toynbee price winner, Jürgen Osterhammel. Our foundation awards this prize for more long-term achievements, not for single works. I will thus not only focus on Jürgen Osterhammel’s more recent global historical publications but I will also introduce his earlier academic contributions. These include some path breaking works, many of which may be less known within American academia since they have not been translated into English.

Jürgen Osterhammel is the first Toynbee Prize in many years recipient who has spent most of academic career outside of the Anglo-American system. He is a professor at the University of Konstanz – a picturesque medieval town, nestled at a lake framed by the Alps. He arrived there in 1999, after some time as a researcher at the German Historical Institute in London as well as faculty positions in Geneva and in Hagen/Germany.

Like many important protagonists of global history, Jürgen did not start out as a globalist but, in his case, rather as a historian of China and colonialism. His doctoral dissertation in that field was actually published as part of a Sinological book series. His second book appeared in 1989 and was entitled China und die Weltgesellschaft (China and the World Society). Here he investigated the changing roles of international political powers, multinational corporations and other agents in China from the 18th century to the present. In 1997, he authored another monograph that took the labor protests and anti-imperialist demonstrations in Shanghai on May 30, 1925 as its point of departure.

Already in his first works that took China as a starting point, Jürgen was fascinated with the entanglements of political, economic, social, cultural and other facets of history. He never became a scholar who could be neatly classified as an economic historian, a social historian, or an intellectual historian. Rather, he proves to be extremely well-read – actually amazingly so — in many branches of historical scholarship as well as in other academic disciplines. As one of our foundation’s trustees, Jeremy Adelman of Princeton University, observes: Osterhammel’s work demonstrates a “peerless grasp of multiple historiographic traditions, and an ability to combine lively empirical detail with brilliant conceptual insights.”

Yet there is another aspect of his early works which would remain a character trait of Osterhammel’s entire oeuvre: Jürgen is passionate about understanding large connections, transcontinental entanglements and global transformations. Yet at the same time, he never ascended to a level of macroscopic perspectives in the sense of becoming detached from historical details. Quite to the contrary, he has always been chiefly interested in the concrete local circumstances within which global dynamics actually play out.

Jürgen eventually left the China field, which was certainly a great loss for one research community but a huge gain for another: global history. Particularly during the past two decades, Jürgen has written about many facets of global history, ranging from colonial history to the history of globalization and from the history of decolonization to reflections on transcultural historical comparisons. He did so in a large number of articles, edited volumes and monographs. Some of them have already been translated into English.

There are two monographs that should be singled out due to their enormous international importance. The first one is entitled Die Entzauberung Asiens, (which in direct translation means The Disenchantment of Asia). An English version is currently in preparation. Here Osterhammel focuses on shifting roles of “Asia” (or parts thereof) as a reference space in European thought during the long 18th century. The work draws on an amazing body of primary sources, particularly travelogues and scholarly works that were published in a variety of European languages during the 1700s. Yet Osterhammel not only operates on the level of ideas but rather draws a wide range of social, institutional and other transformations – global and local ones – into the picture.

Then in 2009, Jürgen Osterhammels book Die Verwandlung der Welt came out. In the meantime, this work has been translated into a whole range of languages – including an English version which was published by Princeton University Press in 2014, under the title The Transformation of the World. As its subtitle indicates, this large tome, which in most editions has far more than one thousand pages, provides a global history of the 19th century. But again, it is a global history which is largely emerging from an entire landscape of micro-level perspectives. In the words of Selcuk Esenbel, another Trustee of our foundation, this book “provides a systematic list of factors and themes which can be used as guidelines to analyze historical information from local history and assess connections to global processes.”

Indeed, never losing touch with concrete local contexts, Osterhammel takes his readers along to fascinating expeditions through many parts of the world and across a long century. On these panoramic journeys, we encounter many worlds of interplay– small and large – worlds of power systems and exploitation, worlds of communication and connection, worlds of standardization and disruption, as well as worlds of hopes and fear.

Soon after its appearance, the book was praised as a milestone, not only of global historical scholarship but also of German or European historiography at large. Some influential figures in the field quickly predicted that this work would find its place in the thin ranks of almost timeless historical masterpieces. I believe they have already been proven right.

Yet the book not only was a success within academic circles – it actually became a bestseller of some sorts. I remember when in 2009 Berlin book stores had copies of the German version stapled on the floor to meet the demand for Christmas gifts. One of the recipients of such a gift was actually the German chancellor, Angela Merkel who invited Jürgen as a guest speaker to her own birthday party – but that’s a different story. In any case, the book was widely discussed in all major German newspapers, and it was covered on radio and television as well. It is hence small wonder that among the many prizes that Jürgen Osterhammel has won, there is also a major German literary award for academic works speaking to a wider audience.

While his academic reputation was spreading to many world regions, Jürgen thus also became a publicly visible scholar. I think he actually has come to emphasize the roles and responsibilities of historians vis-à-vis the wider public, particularly due to the magnitude of crises that many world regions currently have to face. He now fairly regularly writes articles for newspapers, and interviews with him have appeared in various mass media.

Yet all this happened while he was never actively seeking the limelight of public attention. Similar things can be said about institutions: the game for jobs, honors and professional power was simply not his. This is quite exceptional since particularly in the German academic system where full professorships are comparatively rare, one is easily showered with honors and executive responsibilities. Jürgen has always tried to keep a distance: Rumor has it that one bioblurb he submitted for a collective publication ended with the line “and he has never been the director of anything.”

I think that deep down ,Jürgen has always regarded the world of academic perks and competition with the ironic distance of a somewhat detached observer. Yet the irony was not only on his side: after all, the media, large academic foundations and famous institutions ended up approaching him. But perhaps we should not see all of this as ironic, but rather as a reason to feel at least somewhat optimistic about the current situation of historiography and its relationship with the general public. Academic quality, scholarly dedication and solid, but at the same time, daring thinking obviously still count for something, even outside of the thin realms of academic expertise.

In other words, not only we as professional scholars appreciate Jürgen Osterhammel’s ability to combine an appreciation for local details with a readiness to think daringly, in larger historical contexts. He did not need to make the sacrifice of oversimplification in order to reach the wider public.

For all these outstanding achievements, the Toynbee Prize Foundation has selected Jürgen Osterhammel as the recipient of the 2017 Toynbee Prize. As Darrin McMahon mentioned in his introductory remarks, our foundation recognizes both, outstanding work in global history as well as, more generally, academic contributions, as defined from a broad historical view of human society. We believe that Jürgen Osterhammel has excelled in both areas, and we proudly present this year’s award to him. Congratulations!

The 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture: “Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today” (Jürgen Osterhammel)

The 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture:
Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today”

Professor Jürgen Osterhammel (University of Konstanz)

January 6, 2017
Annual Convention of the American Historical Association

It is one of the greatest possible privileges for a speaker to give a surprise address under nothing but a formal title. Today: “The Toynbee Lecture”. This precious opportunity not to be constrained by a topic chosen many months in advance and to present one’s work and thought almost at the moment of creation allows me to share a few vague and fleeting ideas with you. In this lecture, gratefully overwhelmed by an award that is much too big for someone who is anything but a “typical” global historian and who represents no particular tendency or school, I am going to take Arnold Toynbee as my guide.

The same role might have been played by several others on the list of illustrious recipients of the Toynbee Prize: by Christopher Bayly in whose memory I had the sad privilege to speak in Cambridge last June; by Dipesh Chakrabarty whose turn to issues of climate will become even more urgent and important in the future (as will John McNeill’s work in environmental history); by Ralf Dahrendorf whose books I have been reading continuously since 1968 and whose lectures I followed at the LSE in 1977; or by Raymond Aron who was one of the most astute observers of the twentieth century. Aron, perhaps even more so than the other scholars und intellectuals mentioned, was a truly universal mind – in the universe of universalisms the very opposite of Toynbee, though there were certain proximities in their respective comments on their own age.

I will be playing, if you forgive this conceit, Dante to Toynbee’s Virgil leading the way. Rather than confront you head-on with my own ideas about what global history is or ought to be, I will let my thoughts pass through the prism of the work of a master, a master remote and strange enough not to keep me in intellectual bondage. In other words: not my master.

My chosen title is “Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today”. It echoes one of the greatest, though nowadays almost entirely unknown, essays ever written in German by an economist and sociologist. In 1926, Joseph Alois Schumpeter published a long article entitled “Gustav von Schmoller und die Probleme von heute” where he paid tribute to the influential Nationalökonom and economic historian. Proceeding from his homage, he then used motives from Schmoller’s work to shed light on a contemporary scene that had changed dramatically since the time of Schmoller, who had died during World War I. Continue reading

The Toynbee Prize Foundation at the 2017 American Historical Association Annual Meeting

A quick reminder for readers of the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s website attending this year’s American Historical Association Annual Meeting in Denver, Colorado.

On Friday, January 6, 2017 from 3:30 PM-5:00 PM, Professor Jürgen Osterhammel (Unversity of Konstanz) will deliver the 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture, titled “Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today.” The lecture will take place in Room 403 of the Colorado Convention Center (Meeting Room Level).

Prior to the lecture, Toynbee Prize Foundation President Dominic Sachsenmaier will award Professor Osterhammel with a certificate the Toynbee Prize.

Not in Denver? Not to worry. A short summary of Professor Osterhammel’s lecture will be available online by the beginning of next week. And don’t forget, you can watch the previous 2015 Toynbee Prize Lecture by Dipesh Chakrabarty via this link.

New Diplomatic History Network Hosts Successful Conference in Copenhagen

Congratulations to the New Diplomatic History Network, an organization sponsored by the Toynbee Prize Foundation! On November 26-28, the NDH Network (as it is called) hosted a conference titled “Borders, Networks, and Organisations through the 20th Century” at the Centre for Modern European Studies at the University of Copenhagen, building on their inaugural conference in Leiden in 2013.

Readers interested in reading more about the conference may be interested in reading a report of the conference from Giles Scott-Smith, the Ernst van der Beugel Chair in the Diplomatic History of Transatlantic Relations since WW II at the University of Leiden. Check it out here!

First Annual Summer History Institute (Dartmouth College), June 11-15, 2017

For readers of the Global History Blog working on European intellectual history, here’s a call for applications that should be of interest — a chance to attend a first-ever Summer History Institute at Dartmouth College convened by Toynbee Prize Foundation Vice-President Darrin McMahon, along with Udi Greenberg:

The theme of the 2017 Institute is European Intellectual History since the 17th century.  Applicants should either be in the process of completing their dissertations or engaged in revising book manuscripts as recent PhDs (post-docs and beginning assistant professors welcome).  Participants will each present a draft article or chapter of their work, and the group as a whole will attend a variety of special events (receptions, dinners, and lectures) to discuss theoretical and methodological issues in the company of senior scholars, including Professors Martin Jay (Berkeley), Samuel Moyn (Harvard), and Sophia Rosenfeld (Yale).   Participation in the Institute includes travel, room, and board. 

To apply, send a CV and letter of application with 1-2 paragraphs describing the project and the piece you would like to workshop by February 1, 2017 to Professors Udi Greenberg and Darrin McMahon, Dept. of History, Dartmouth College, 27 North Main Street, Hanover, NH 03755.


Interview with Sven Beckert on Global History Approaches

CFP: Global Histories: A Student Journal

Are you a graduate student working on global history themes and looking for an outlet for your work? Consider publishing in Global Histories, the student-run journal of the Global History MA program at the Humboldt University in Berlin and the Freie Universität Berlin. More information on the latest call for submissions follows:

In recent years, global history has become one of the most ambitious and promising strands of historical research. This approach targets relations, flows, and actors that transcend borders long-assumed to be stable and impenetrable. It calls attention to the importance of transnational, trans-regional, or trans-local connections and their influence on the past.

Our successful international Global History Student Conference 2016 acts as the point of departure for this issue, showcasing how global history is conceptualized and realized in different cultural contexts around the world. To that end, we encourage the submission of any historical or transdisciplinary research related to (or critical of) global history. We suggest the following themes, which represent our conference panels, as a starting point for consideration:

• Decentralizing the Cold War
• Global History before 1750
• Methodology and Marginalization
• Global Urban History
• Gender, Body, and Power
• Transnational Ideologies and Networks
• Memory Studies
• Religion
• Postcolonial Studies
• Visual Representations and Art History

Who We Are
Global Histories is a student-run open access journal based in the MA Global History program at Humboldt University and Free University in Berlin. We are looking for submissions from fellow students across the world for our spring issue on the topic of global history.

Article submissions should be 5000-7000 words and written in English with vernacular scripts in the original and transcription included wherever appropriate. All submissions must follow the Chicago Manual of Style and must not have been previously submitted for publication elsewhere. Please consult our submission guidelines.

Authors should register on our website to submit their work via our online system.

Questions related to topics or article submissions should be directed to, but applicants should do so well in advance of the January 15, 2017 final deadline.


Bruce Mazlish: A Tribute

As readers of the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s blog will have learned from our earlier postings, Bruce Mazlish, Professor Emeritus of History and the President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation from 1986 to the late 1990s, passed away on November 27, 2016.

Since news of Mazlish’s death was reported, media from The New York Times to MIT News have engaged with Mazlish’s legacy and his contributions to the study of Western civilization and psychohistory. Indeed, many readers may be familiar with Mazlish’s ouevre primarily through works like The Western Intellectual Tradition: From Leonardo to Hegel (co-authored with Jacob Bronowski in 1960) or In Search of Nixon: A Psychohistorical Inquiry, published a month before the break-ins into the Watergate complex. Yet perhaps less immediate attention has gone to Mazlish’s contributions to the development of the field of global history – the focus of this short tribute.

Given the lively state of the field of global history today, it is easy to forget how relatively recently “global history” as such was constituted within Western academia. With very few earlier exceptions, the term “global history” started appearing in publication titles only during the 1990s, and Bruce Mazlish was one of its proponents during that first hour. Certainly, the global history movement of the 1990s had been preceded by a growing number of scholars who did not self-identify with the older field of world history but at the same time were looking for alternatives to national historical container thinking. There had also been a growing number of scholars who pushed for more proactive, bordercrossing roles of regional expertise.

Having already published a series of books on psychohistory, by the 1980s Mazlish became convinced of the need to pursue global history approaches that could address the problems of the era. As Mazlish wrote, the 1970s and 1980s were a period marked by any number of new basic facts that demanded a global historical sensibility: the exploration of space; a global consciousness of “Spaceship Earth” as a shared home for all nations and peoples; the threat of nuclear war; “environmental problems that refuse to conform to lines drawn on a map”; and the growing power of multinational corporations. In Mazlish’s view,

These and other signs require us to design a new perspective to guide our understanding of what is happening around us. A new consciousness is needed to help us view these developments along with other more traditional ones and to give meaning to them. A new subfield of history must be created. Global history as a new perspective, consciousness, and discipline must be conceptualized and then exemplified.

That Mazlish endorsed this view meant certainly a decided step beyond his earlier work in fields like Western intellectual tradition and psychohistory. But Mazlish’s election to the Toynbee Prize in 1986 – and his subsequent reformation of the Toynbee Prize Foundation into a more formalized foundation – provided one platform through which he and the Trustees could begin to support the work of intellectuals focused on “global” problems. The need to do so became clearer and clearer with the end of the Cold War in the late 1980s and the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, and as some pronounced the dawn of a “new world order.”

All the same, there were still relatively few actual monographs that embodied a global history perspective. Hence, in 1991, Mazlish, in conjunction with Ralph Buultjens, organized one of, if not the first, conference on global history (held in Bellagio, Italy) to consider the theory and practice of global history. The conference papers were published in 1993 as Conceptualizing Global History, and this volume would become an important reference point for debates on global history, for many years to come. In his essay below, Raymond Grew recalls of the Bellagio Conference and others that followed in the 1990s and early 2000s.

Twenty-five years later, many of the topics broached in Conceptualizing Global History as well as the publications that resulted from the ensuing global history conferences still form lively debates for global historians. Mazlish and colleagues thus helped to theorize global history as a discipline and to begin to sketch out what an “applied global history” would look like. He himself did so not only through a whole range of publications in the new field but also through organizing conferences in different countries on both sides of the Atlantic. On these and their impact, see the essays by Roland Benedikter and Dominic Sachsenmaier below.

Mazlish made a whole range of written contributions to the field of global history. Among the most important ones are his essay “Comparing World History to Global History” in The Journal of Interdisciplinary History or the 2005 Global History Reader (London: Routledge) edited by Mazlish and Akira Iriye. Likewise, Mazlish’s monograph, The New Global History (London: Routledge, 2006) provides a vista into the field at this moment of its coalescing. Students who are new to the field would do well to survey the breadth of issues that Mazlish and other scholars engaged in these early works, outlining what a concrete global history research agenda for (for example) the study of diseases, terrorism, or internationalism would look like. Readers of the Global History Forum who pay close attention to the intellectual biographies of many of our participants will recognize how many of the works we have surveyed would have been unthinkable without this earlier agenda-setting work.

Beyond his publications, however, throughout these years Mazlish played an important role as a mentor to many younger scholars of international and global history. See the accounts by Kenneth Weisbrode and David Ekbladh below, for example.

Even as Mazlish withdrew from active teaching at MIT, he continued to develop his thoughts on the field of global history. As the tribute by Alice Bullard emphasizes, Mazlish’s emphasis on the need for a global history perspective was very much informed by a moral imperative. His 2009 book, The Idea of Humanity in a Global Era (London: Palgrave) stressed that global history could not merely be a triumphalist history of globalization. In that book, Mazlish sought to explore the various ways in which “humanity” as a collectivity distinct from “humankind” had been mobilized politically in the past, in order to gain perspective on how “humanity” in the 21st century could confront threats to its own existence, such as global warming. Indeed, throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s, Mazlish was at work on a manuscript entitled Where are We Going? The Project of Humanity.

It was thanks to Bruce’s contributions to the field that the Toynbee Prize Foundation was able to continue to grow and evolve into an organization dedicated to the field of global history. Bruce handed over leadership of the Foundation to Raymond Grew, and, later, Grew was succeeded by current President Dominic Sachsenmaier in 2014. Yet that the Foundation is now able to engage with such a wide range of global history approaches – whether the work of senior scholars like Christopher Bayly, Dipesh Chakrabarty, and Jürgen Osterhammel or the newer wave of global history work surveyed in the Global History Forum – owes much to Bruce’s two-and-a-half decades of activism. While the Toynbee Prize Foundation remains engaged in documenting and fostering the field as it grows both in size and diversity, we also remain mindful of Mazlish’s words on the need for global history approaches in an age of interconnections:

Whether consciously we admit it or not, our writing of history is, overtly or covertly, in part an attempt to situate ourselves correctly in regard to current problems. Thus it is in regard to our effort to understand globalization today. While employing a multi-disciplinary approach, we must comprehend that process in a wide ranging historical perspective. In doing so, we help create what will become our own past, is now our present, and is unfolding before us as our future.

Readers may be interested in reading the full tributes to Bruce Mazlish by some of our Trustees, as well as former colleagues, students, and friends. A list of contributions follows below:

3 Fellowships, Institute for the History and Future of Work (Berlin, Germany)

For scholars interested in social history and labour history, consider the following call for applications from the Institute for the History and Future of Work (IZGA) for three one-year fellowships in Berlin, Germany:

The Institute for the History and Future of Work (Institut für die Geschichte und Zukunft der Arbeit – IGZA) is a foundation recently established by Dr. Horst Neumann in Wolfsburg and Berlin. It supports the study of historical developments, present problems and future perspectives of work and labour. Presently, one of its research fields is dealing with the history, present varieties and future possibilities of working time (Arbeitszeit) in a cross-epochal historical perspective.

In cooperation with the international research center “Work and Human Lifecycle in Global History” (re:work) at Humboldt University of Berlin (funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research) the IGZA invites scholars from different disciplines to apply for research fellowships in order to study aspects of the history of the working time, in Berlin during the academic year 2017-2018. Three fellowships, clustered in a thematic group, will be awarded. Applications are due on 22 January 2017.

We welcome candidates from various disciplines including history, anthropology, law, sociology, political sciences, geography, economics, and area studies. Applicants should be at the postdoctoral level or senior scholars. Applications should focus on questions related to work and working time. Possible topic areas are, among others, the separability and entanglements of working time and other dimensions of life time in past and present, the length, extension and reduction of working time, tensions, conflicts and negotiations related to working time, work processes and the measurement of time in agriculture, industries and service occupations, employment, unemployment and rhythms of life, the relationship between work and non-work/leisure, religious prescriptions and interpretations of work and working time, gender-specific problems of defining and limiting working time, working time and life course, labour rights and labour movements, the reduction of working time from 3000 yearly hours to 1500 in the last 150 years, the transition from crafts and manufacture period to industrial capitalism. We also encourage applications focusing on work and time structures in Pre- and Early History.

We welcome proposals with respect to different historical periods and different regions of the world and especially those that look at comparisons, conflicts, relations between different regions. A global history perspective is not required; keeping an open mind to such approaches, however, is highly desirable.

The fellowships will begin on 1 October 2017 and end on 31 July 2018. Shorter fellowship terms will be possible. Fellows will receive a monthly stipend to be determined. This is a residential fellowship. Fellows are obliged to work at re:work in Berlin. A fully equipped office at re:work will be provided as well as organizational help for visa, housing, etc. During the fellowship, we also encourage fellows to introduce their work to wider audiences within Berlin’s scientific community. The fellows will be fully integrated in re:work’s fellow cohort of the year 2017/18, including colloquiums, workshops, and all other joint activities. Fellows at re:work work on topics related to work and life course in a global perspective. Further information about the center, you will find on re:work’s website.

Here’s more information on how to apply (the deadline is January 22, 2017).

Please use the electronic form on the re:work website (or access the link directly).

You will be asked to provide information regarding your biography, the research project you intend to work on during your fellowship as well as details on your current research. Applicants should provide the names of two referees in addition to that.