About a thousand years ago, the forces drawing people closer together became more
powerful than those fostering ever-increasing cultural diversity. From that beginning,
this "great convergence" has proceeded unsteadily to the globalization of the present
day. Proceeding from this premise, this immodest essay explores the value of long-term
thinking for understanding world history. Topics discussed include the spread and
decline of languages, the virtues and faults of empires, the periodization of history, and
the emergence of world history as a discipline.
This essay synthesizes research findings in the fields of microbiology, archaeology, and
archaeobotany to explore the significance of malaria on the peopling of early tropical
Africa before the Common Era. It contends that the human genetic responses to
malarial infections in early tropical Africa constitute the earliest known chapters in
the human experience with infectious disease. It also advances a new interpretation
of the colonization of much of tropical Africa during the demographic processes
known as the "Bantu expansions" (fifth to first millennia B.C.E.). It argues against diffusionist
theories and in favor of a more integrated theory of the peopling of the continent.
Sati, the custom of burning widows alive with the bodies of their husbands, is not a
phenomenon unique to India, if its function (and not merely its appearance) is taken
into account. All over the world, in many societies where there is widespread belief in
the continuation of an individual's position in the hereafter, the social and political
order has been confirmed and strengthened by the provision of attendants for deceased
persons: at their funerals, the deceased were followed, either voluntarily or involuntarily,
by their subordinates, who either were killed or killed themselves in public rituals.
Religion and sociology -- Africa, West -- History.
This article seeks to develop a vocabulary and conceptual framework for the discussion
of cross-cultural religious encounters. The ubiquity of Christian missionaries in diverse
parts of the world provides a basis for such an enterprise. For China, four patterns are
postulated: selective inculturation, resistance, conversion, and selective acculturation
toWestern secular knowledge with the aid of mission schools. ForWest Africa, the patterns
are less distinct. There was less resistance and greater openness to Christianity,
reflecting a different relationship between the sacred and the secular than in China.
The article concludes by finding the theories of Jack Goody (on literacy) and Carl Jung
(on introversion and extroversion) to be heuristically valuable.