Historisk Tidskrift. Utgiven av Svenska historiska föreningen
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Historisk tidskrift 128:4 • 2008

Innehåll (Contents) 2008:4

Uppsatser (Articles)

Den världshistoriska vändningen. Möjligheter och problem i relation till svensk historisk forskning

Stefan Eklöf Amirell

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The world history turn: Possibilities and problems in relation to Swedish historical research

This article discusses the institutionalization of world (or global) history as a field of research within the international historical discipline since around 1990 and the reasons for its relatively weak impact in Sweden. The intellectual premises and origins of world history, which emphasizes mutual interaction and connections between different societies in history, are traced to five earlier historiographic traditions: diffusionism, synthetic histories of world civilizations, the French An- nales-school, area studies and world systems theory. In relation to the national paradigm that has dominated the discipline of history in Sweden and other Wes- tern countries since the nineteenth century, world history should be understood both as a critique against the unreflecting adoption of narrow national frames of analysis and as a continuation in terms of the historical methods and results of the nationally oriented historiography.

In the second part, four main objections that have been raised against the world history perspective are discussed together with the ways in which the problems can be overcome: 1) the problems of delimitation and method in world history; 2) the purposes and uses of world history in relation to contemporary society; 3) the need to develop theoretical models and concepts for the purpose of stud- ying global historical processes and interaction; and 4) the risk of alienating the historically interested general public. It is concluded that Swedish historians can make significant contributions to the field, not least because of the relatively great interest in questions of theory and method that has characterized modern Swedish historical research.


world history, global history, historiography, historical method, Sweden, Europe, United States