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  • A Global History of Modern Historiography
  • Jörg Matthias Determann
A Global History of Modern Historiography. By Georg G. Iggers and Q. Edward Wang with contributions from Supriya Mukherjee. Harlow, England: Pearson Education, 2008. 448 pp. $48.00 (paper).

This book deals with the transformations of historical writing in the world from the late eighteenth century until about 2007. Its main argument is that the history of historiography should no longer be studied with a focus on the West and on different nation-states but from a global and comparative perspective. This takes into account the transcultural exchange across different areas of the world over the last two and a half centuries, which was driven by processes of globalization, [End Page 369] Westernization, and modernization. The book analyzes interactions of historical thinking and writing between the West and other regions of the world, most notably East Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East. Especially, but not exclusively, it thereby focuses on the dissemination, adoption, and adaptation of methods and approaches developed in Western countries in non-Western areas of the world.

Although lacking a proper conclusion summarizing the book’s main findings, the book argues for a globalization of historical studies since the late eighteenth century. Until then, relatively separate traditions of historiography existed in the West, the Middle East, India, and East and Southeast Asia. Later in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, academic and nationalist historiographies developed in many countries of the world, first mainly in the West, and later, to a certain extent following Western models, in the Middle East and Asia in particular. Subsequently, in the twentieth century, nationalist and political history writing became challenged by new currents, such as varieties of social and Marxist historiography, cultural history, feminist and gender history, postcolonial studies, postmodernism, and transnational Islamic historiography. To a number of them, such as postcolonial studies, scholars of non-Western background but often at Western institutions contributed significantly and strongly influenced academic debates. Finally, the volume discusses the developments in the study of world history and global history beyond national schools since the end of the Cold War.

One of the greatest strengths of the book is its scope. Despite the importance of Western influences on historiography worldwide, which is emphasized and discussed by the authors, it succeeds in overcoming a Eurocentric perspective, giving lengthy accounts of developments in China, Japan, India, Egypt, and Turkey. Less attention and space is given to developments in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia. In addition, the book discusses transnational schools, such as Marxist historiography, feminist and gender history, and postcolonialism. Despite their volume’s relative conciseness, the authors succeed in discussing or at least sketching most major developments in academic historiography over the last two centuries worldwide.

A second important strength is the high level of exactitude of the information provided. Georg G. Iggers is a leading expert on Western and especially German historiography, while Q. Edward Wang has published extensively on Chinese historiography. Their expertise is supplemented by Supriya Mukherjee, who has worked on Indian historiography. Drawing on their knowledge of different world regions, [End Page 370] especially the West, China, Japan, and South Asia, they provide much detailed and accurate information about wider debates and intellectual developments, the lives of individual historians, their works, the establishment of historical journals, and so forth. This is supplemented by notes and a valuable bibliography for further reading at the end of the book.

However, as the book mainly focuses on different schools of historical thought and authors, it only loosely refers to the various institutional backgrounds of historiography at different points in the narrative. Comparative analyses of social and economic contexts of scholarships across different countries are mostly lacking. For instance, in the context of sub-Saharan Africa, the authors only briefly mention that the oil boom in the 1970s made possible the expansion of universities, history departments, and research funding. This was followed by economic decline in the 1980s, which resulted in scarce funding for researchers, publications, and libraries (p. 300). Iggers et al. do not lay out that the global rise in oil prices in the 1970s and its fall in the 1980s...


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