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  • Historia y Globalización: VIII Conversaciones Internacionales de Historia ed. by Francisco Javier Caspistegui
  • Felipe Fernández-Armesto
Historia y Globalización: VIII Conversaciones Internacionales de Historia. Edited by Francisco Javier Caspistegui. Pamplona: EUNSA, 2012. 328pp. $25.00 (paper).

In his contribution to this collection from a gathering at the Universidad de Navarra in 2010, Jerry Bentley promises (p. 254) to go “beyond” the work of “philosophers and political theorists” to the importance of the everyday. This proposal alone makes his paper different from most other offerings in the volume, where the level of analysis is generally so high as to lose sight of real life. The occasion of the meeting was the seventh in a series called “International Conversations on History,” though the format seems to have consisted in a conventional exchange of papers: No procès-verbal is included in the volume, and there is no other hint of any conversation. The editor, Francisco Javier Caspistegui, should be congratulated on keeping contributors to the themes of “history and globalization” but not—as usual with such more or less random assemblages of texts—on getting them all to agree on what the title of the collection means, or what its remit should be, or almost anything else.

Caspistegui’s introduction strikes an unpromising note. He refers to macrohistory, world history, global history, and the history of globalization without seeming sure about how or whether to distinguish them, or how to tell macrohistory from metahistory (he refers to Hayden White as if he were an adversary of the former). He falls back on an awkward formulation: “historia mundial/global” (p. 30) while insisting that global history must concern recent or current events (p. 17). Bruce Mazlish wielded the term “New Global History” to mean history of globalization, and at one time the World History Association explicitly excluded it from its remit (I hope the old disclaimer no longer appears on the association’s website). But few practitioners of global history accept limitation to the recent past or to the process of globalization, the Journal of Global History ignores it, and, in any case, globalization is an unhelpfully flabby concept, oozing obesely at edges so contested that it seems unhelpful to invoke it—a canard that needs to be canned, like confit, in its own fat.

What some colleagues in the global history movement valorously try to do—to see the history of the world conspectually and seek to identify and understand what has happened all over the planet, or over almost all of it—does not seem to have occurred to Caspistegui or any of his contributors as part of their subject. The editor’s understanding seems excessively selective in other ways. Marxist historiography does not merit a mention. The exponents of Big History and Deep History [End Page 648] (in the sense popularized by Dan Smail and Andrew Shryock) get no mention. Caspistegui proposes “problems and questions around macro-history” as his theme, but they boil down to whether current work on “historia mundial/global” had precedents and whether it is practicable. On the former question, he is again selective to the point of misrepresentation, looking at no possible precedent earlier than Kant and omitting most of the fields in which scholars have tried to take in the whole planet, such as environmental history, art history, history of science, history of manners, history of religion, history of the body, maritime history, history of war, and history of material culture. The second question hardly seems worth asking any longer. We can embrace the globe in our work. Si monumentum requiris . . .

Most of the rest of the book is equally disappointing. Alejandro Navas sets himself the task of analyzing the texts of thirty modern authors who have attempted to describe society globally or identify what is global about it, but then apparently forgets to mention any of them again. In a puzzling paper supposedly on “consequences and preludes” (of what is never clear), Frank Ankersmit assures us—I suspect, to widespread demurs—that we are in the grip of anxiety about a recurrence of “una catástrofe como el Holocausto” (p. 69). He asserts that historical writing and “conciencia...


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