World History



World History is a field of historical study that emerged as a distinct academic field in the 1980s. It examines history from a global perspective.


Unlike most history writing of the 19th and most of the 20th centuries, which focused on narratives of individuals, and on national and ethnic perspectives, World History looks for common patterns that emerge across all cultures. World historians use a thematic approach, with two major focal points: integration (how processes of world history have drawn people of the world together) and difference (how patterns of world history reveal the diversity of the human experience).


The study of world history is in some ways a product of the current period of accelerated globalization. This period is tending both to integrate various cultures and to highlight their differences.


The advent of World History as a distinct field of study was heralded in the 1980s by the creation of the World History Association and of graduate programs at a handful of universities. Over the past 20 years, scholarly publications, professional and academic organizations, and graduate programs in World History have proliferated. It has become an increasingly popular approach to teaching history in United States high schools and colleges. Many new textbooks are being published with a World History approach.


Many works are analogous to World History, in that they discuss "the history of the world" in a unified framework — For example, it was a genre popular in the 19th century with universal history, and with Christian historians going back to at least the 4th century. Other analogous works include:


  • Shortly after World War I several popular books were written which dealt with the history of the world, though with a somewhat different approach. These included the children's book The Story of Mankind (1921) by Hendrik Willem van Loon and the textbook The Outline of History (1918) by H.G. Wells.

  • William McNeill's The Rise of the West (1963).

  • Marshall Hodgson's writings were a precursor to the modern World History approach.

  • Arnold J. Toynbee was a precursor of modern World History with his vast project, A Study of History.

  • William McGaughey's Five Epochs of Civilization (2000).


This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "World History".




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