Because of its claims to general knowledge, and perhaps even more because of its increasing prominence in the educational curriculum, world history has recently become a principal focus of constituencies seeking to mobilize the past in support of particular political or ideological agendas. In extreme cases these constituencies have made world history little more than a vehicle of propaganda for their ideological preferences. This article recognizes that historical scholarship always reflects some set of political or ideological influences and thus takes the form of situated knowledge rather than a final or definitive assessment of the past. Yet it holds that it is possible for historians to engage the past and present in meaningful dialogue without subjecting the past to rigid ideological constraints. The article discusses and criticizes several visions of the global past that have recently emerged from the conservative and patriotic right as well as the Marxist and postcolonial left. It argues that a more analytical and ecumenical world history would yield deeper understanding of the world and its development through time, and would also serve larger social needs better than ideologically charged visions of the global past.


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pp. 51-82
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