Foto: Matthias Friel
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The course deals with one of the central topics of global history: In the early 16th century, the countless states and statelets of Europe ruled over about 1/10 of the world. In almost all regards, the so-called »West« was unimportant compared to the great Muslim empires of the Ottomans, the Safavids, and the Timurids, not to mention Ming-China. Four centuries later, however, nine European powers and the United States of America ruled the seas and controlled 2/3 of the world’s land surface and population as well as 4/5 of the global economic output. Until the early 21st century, Europe (including the Soviet Union) and the United States of America were the world’s almost unchallenged political, military, scientific, technological, and cultural hegemons.
The long process of the »globalization« of the »Western« civilization and the parallel demise of the non-European empires is discussed by historians since several decades. The debate was dominated for a long time by seminal studies of Anglo-American historians, beginning with William McNeillʼs »The Rise of the West« (1963) and Eric Jonesʼ »The European Miracle« (1981). The topic was popularized by Jared Diamondʼs »Guns, Germs, and Steel« in 1997. With Kenneth Pomeranzʼs »Great Divergence« (2000) the debate was revived, Niall Ferguson’s provocative »Civilization« (2011) was even discussed in popular media. Recently, Tonio Andradeʼs »The Gunpowder Age – China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History« and Wolfgang Reinhardʼs »Die Unterwerfung der Welt – Globalgeschichte der europäischen Expansion, 1415–2015« were published.
Which roles had geography and biology, science and media, technology and military, economic systems and social structures, ideologies and values in this world-transforming process? Which relevance had European Early Modern territorial expansion (starting in the Americas and Siberia), early capitalism and the modern (»fiscal-military«) state? Did the »Great Divergence« begin in the 17th, 18th, or 19th century – or already in the late Middle Ages?
The course presents a historiographical overview of the »Rise of the West«. Important case studies and relevant theories will be analysed and debated. As Eurocentrism will be avoided as much as possible, not only the differences, but also the similarities between the world regions will be examined. Further, counterfactual scenarios will be discussed. Also »anomalies« will be focussed: For example, the Sultanate of Oman managed to oust the Europeans from the Western Indian Ocean in the 17th and 18th centuries, while the Empire of Japan rose to a great power with worldwide recognition in the early 20th century. Could it be, that the »European Miracle« itself was the historical anomaly?
In the course, the thorough reading of at least one seminal work on the topic is demanded, the presentation of a paper and the writing of a short essay is obligatory. As Modulprüfung, a written exam has to be passed.
- Daly, Jonathan (2015): Historians debate the rise of the West. London and New York: Routledge.
- Vanhaute, Eric (2013): World history. An introduction. London: Routledge.
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