Modern professional history developed in symbiosis with the bureaucratic nation-state and institutionalized science in nineteenth-century Europe, and the conventional grand narrative reflects an idealized view of modernity and modernization. Postcolonial states continued to conform, and location within the national narrative became central to entitlement. Any ostensibly universal account must try to transcend the epistemological and ideological bases of a heterogeneity of histories (vernacular, statesponsored, and transnational), although any claim to epistemic sovereignty is entangled with the practice of power. Despite the realities of cultural difference and political interest, global interdependence requires a usable past. This article considers problems and possibilities.