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Reviewed by:
  • Competing Visions of World Order: Global Moments and Movements, 1880s–1930s
  • Daniel Gorman
Competing Visions of World Order: Global Moments and Movements, 1880s–1930s. Edited by Sebastian Conrad and Dominic Sachsenmaier. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007. 276pp. $74.95 (cloth).

The historical study of globalization has entered its adolescence. This volume’s forward notwithstanding, it can no longer be said that the field has been ceded to social scientists, that historians need to provide the necessary “context” for global integration, or that historians need to embrace transnational approaches to global history. These challenges have been met by a succession of thoughtful works over the past decade. The task now for historians is how to implement the ideas this infant historiography has advanced. It is time to actually write the history of globalization. The volume under review is thus a welcome addition, meeting the challenges of global history head-on. The contributors are members of “Conceptions of World Order: Global Historical Perspectives,” a research network sponsored by the German National Research Foundation, and this volume illustrates the scholarly benefits of such collaborative work. It provides a model, if at times an uneven one, for how historians can illustrate global connections in an empirical and coherent manner.

A perennial difficulty for global historians is how to encompass the global without losing sense of the particularity of the local. Global history demands wide-ranging expertise, which single historians rarely possess; truly global histories, such as W. H. McNeill’s The Rise of the West(1964) or John Darwin’s recent After Tamerlane: The Global History of Empire(2007), are thus rare and distinctive accomplishments. The more common approach is to pool the expertise of several specialists with the aim of producing a work greater than the sum of its parts. A. G. Hopkins’s edited collections Globalization in World History(2002) and Global History: Interactions between the Universal and the Local(2006) and Frank Trentmann et al.’s Beyond Sovereignty(2007) are fruitful examples of this approach. Competing Visions of World Orderdeserves a place next to these works on global historians’ shelves.

Conrad and Sachsenmaier tie together the book’s chapters through the concept of “global moments,” defined as “events of a popular significance that appealed to people in discrete and distant locations” (p. 12). There is a danger here in selecting the “global moment” to fit the argument one wishes to make, but by and large the contributors use this organizing construct to good effect. The formation of ideas of world order was a necessary prelude to the emergence of internationalism [End Page 559]in the mid twentieth century. The book’s contributors highlight the era of the new imperialism, World War I, and the postwar decade of the 1920s as the key gestational period for opposition to a Eurocentric world order. Four main types of opposition are identified. Subversive internationalists worked for change within the international system, nationalist movements challenged the hegemony of multiethnic empires, regional and pan-movements fostered oppositional identities built on cultural or ethnic bonds, and traditionalist movements created discursive coalitions to fend off or manipulate the intrusion of Western modernity.

Individual chapters are organized into three parts, drawing variously on all four forms of oppositional movements. Part 1 details concepts of world order during the high era of European imperialism. Harald Fischer-Tiné illustrates the links between the Salvation Army’s work in Britain and India, Christian Geulen demonstrates the centrality of racial thought to visions of world order, and Matthias Middell, in the volume’s most narrowly focused chapter, surveys late nineteenth- and earlier twentieth-century German world histories. Part 2 pairs Erez Manela’s chapter on the “Wilsonian Moment” in the colonial world, an abstract of his fine recent book on the subject, and Sachsenmaier’s chapter on Chinese intellectuals’ response to World War I. Part 3 focuses most closely on alternative ideas of world order. Conrad and Klaus Mühlhahn show how Chinese labor migration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries fostered a stronger Chinese identity both within the diaspora and at home; Cemil Aydin, in the book’s best chapter, shows how Japan’s military victory over...


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