TPF Trustee Jeremy Adelman on the Future of Global History

In an article published today in Aeon magazine, TPF trustee Jeremy Adelman asks the question “What is Global History Now?” Reflecting on the future of global history, he wonders:

What is to become of this approach to the past, one that a short time ago promised to re-image a vintage discipline? What would global narratives look like in the age of an anti-global backlash? Does the rise of ‘America First’, ‘China First’, ‘India First’ and ‘Russia First’ mean that the dreams and work of globe-narrating historians were just a bender, a neo-liberal joyride?

Ultimately, Adelman presses for the continued need for global history, but one that is as attentive to disunity as it is to unity:

This does not make global history less pressing. On the contrary. One of the ironies is that the anti-globalism movement is immersed in transnational mutual adoration networks. The day after the Brexit plebiscite, Trump travelled to the UK to reopen his golf resort. The British had ‘taken back their country’, he told the bristle of microphones, then returned home to Make America Great Again. Le Pen’s excitement about Trump is well-known. Fyodor V Biryukov, head of Rodina, the Russian Motherland Party, calls this swarm ‘a new global revolution’. It was, we should recall, the global financial crisis of 2008-9 that did the most to ravage the hopes of one-world dreamers, emanating from the sector that had gone furthest to fuse Westerners and Resterners while creating deeper divides at home: banking.

In short, we need narratives of global life that reckon with disintegration as well as integration, the costs and not just the bounty of interdependence. They might not do well on the chirpy TED-talk circuit, compete with Friedman’s unbridled faith in borderless technocracy, or appeal much to Davos Man. But if we are going to come to terms with the deep histories of global transformations, we need to remind ourselves of one of the historian’s crafts, and listen to the other half of the globe, the tribalists out there and right here, talking back.

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