Scandia utblick: Writing Global History


  • Klas-Göran Karlsson



global history, globalization, cross-boundary, diachronic, synchronic


There are few more challenging tasks for a historian than organizing and writing a global history. The objections against such a project are obvious: Who possesses the historical knowledge and linguistic skills required for this kind of work? Which are the available sources for global perspectives? Which theories of history can possibly do justice to the variation and diversity inherent in global history? Despite all these implicitly critical and highly legitimate questions, the author of this article has spent five years designing and producing a global history, Natur & Kulturs globalhistoria, in two thick volumes published in late 2022. Departing from the notion that such a work needs to empirically and analytically demonstrate how the world in different diachronic and synchronic ways has maintained a more or less shared and coherent history over time, often by going beyond established boundaries, almost 30 colleagues, mostly consisting of Swedish historians, have written extensive thematic chapters. Some of these, such as migration, environment and tourism, have natural cross-boundary qualities, while others, related to nation-states and power relations, obviously exhibit such qualities to a lesser extent. The article discusses the aims and points of departure, as well as some of the problems and possibilities that we have experienced in the work process, while reflecting on previous historiographical efforts to write global history.