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  • Globalization: A Short History
  • Colin Rowan
Globalization: A Short History. By Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson. Translated by Dona Geyer. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2005. 182 pp. $22.95 (cloth).

The 1990s brought a worldwide awareness of the macroprocess termed "globalization"—everywhere people looked they "saw" globalization happening: global connections, interconnections, and disconnections. It was seemingly happening all around them—economically, culturally, and environmentally—and, as shown in Globalization: A Short History, the patterns have been developing over centuries. The [End Page 458] buzzword "globalization" gives a term to the many conflicting and interconnected processes at work throughout the world; "in a single word, this term summarizes a wide spectrum of experiences shared by many people" (p. 2). Identifying and charting the historical integrative processes that have led to this global age of convergence and divergence, the authors, Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels Petersson, concisely place the emergence of these global processes in the High Middle Ages, occurring, progressing, and moving at different rates and intensities throughout the world.

Indeed, in providing a brief history of globalization, the authors offer the reader a succinct yet illuminative historical perspective of the bundled globalizing processes as they have occurred and developed over time. By focusing readers' attention on frameworks of integration that have emerged in different eras, the authors are able to concisely demonstrate that globalization is not a phenomenon that has recently emerged within the confines of the twentieth century, but rather has emerged through interrelated groupings and globalizing tendencies that date back to the High Middle Ages at different intensities. Beginning truly with the European overseas expansions that led to large-scale colonization and state-building, the book claims that globality emerged in different areas at dissimilar intensities. This book outlines these emergences and effectively provides an understanding of the frameworks within which globalization has taken place throughout the world.

The book itself is conveniently written in a manner that will make it useful for introductory classes in modern history and modern world history and for classes dealing with issues of globalization, modernization, and urbanization historically. Each chapter of the book can be quickly broken down and understood through the authors' format, which expedites outlining and digestion of the frankly written arguments.

These chapters begin with a presentation of the different debates over the meaning of globalization as a term, concept, and process. Following this, the authors establish their definition of the term "globalization" for use in the book as the "development, concentration, and increasing importance of worldwide integration" (p. 26), allowing a shift from static totality in the term toward an exploration into the history of this worldwide integration. The periodization of the book's chapters divides the globalizing processes into four (Eurocentric) epochs. The first period chronicled is that of empire-building, expansion of long-distance and intercontinental trade, and new forms of worldwide connections that occurred before the mid-eighteenth century [End Page 459] all while the world remained polycentric with massive holes in the networks. The authors also note the spread of diseases throughout the world and the devastating impact of European germs on the people of the Americas. For the first time people were able to envision the world more globally as a growing consciousness of interrelation became perceivable. The next phase, as periodized by the authors, is from 1750 to 1880. This is the age of imperialism, political upheaval throughout the Atlantic world, and industrialization. The process of industrialization that occurred in some parts of the Northern Hemisphere is said to have created networks of traffic, communication, migration, and commerce. This period ushered in the modern world as integrative thrusts spread waves of industrial revolutions through free trade and expanded networks. As these global networks were growing, nationalist movements also gained strength, leading to the Enlightenment's theory of the world-citizen and a world history to be superseded by national histories. The turn to the twentieth century and the first half of that century make the next period. An epoch of world wars, global financial crisis, and the rise of anticolonial nationalisms throughout the world highlight the turbulence of the age. New multinational enterprises established plants abroad...


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pp. 458-461
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