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Analytical Reviews Part One. Manning starts from the observation that from earliest times people have sought to keep alive the memory of times past, either by oral means through stories and poems, recited at special events, or after the invention of writing, and later printing, with the production of written records…
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Download file to see previous pages These factors mean that most history is skewed towards certain dominant themes and ideas, for example the Western Europeans focus during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries on “civilization” which was defined as large, metropolitan areas and excluded many smaller but equally interesting societies.1 The preoccupations of the time and place of writing influence what is written, and so, for example Victorian historians write about English Empire and foreign trade while twentieth century historians consider social history and cataclysmic events such as the two World Wars.2 Thus far Manning follows standard views of history but he also moves into novel areas when he considers the way that communications have improved, and the scope of history has widened to include the whole world and history has come to be defined as “as a field of study focusing on the historical connections among entities and systems often thought to be distinct.” (Manning, p. 7) Every modern historian has to work in this mode because the contributions from other fields like archaeology, linguistics and climatology have now become an integral part of what it means to do history. Mazlish identifies such giants of the past as Smith, Marx, Engels and Weber as significant heralds of change in the way that we understand the world, observing that they “seem to have recognized some of the forces of globalization – science technology, capitalism – in their early manifestations and sensed their future implications.”3 Similarly, Mazlish sees himself taking in all the work of historians who have gone before, including the particularly gifted ones who detect major currents in the world, and using them to help illuminate the problems of today. Understanding the past reveals what is inevitable in human history, in the sense of what is contained embryonically and waiting to emerge. Searching for this insight is one of the main function of history, and it becomes important in a new way, according to both Mazlish and Manning, when it is applied to the contemporary world. Mazlish helpfully explains the difference between “world history” which focuses on cultural matters and “global history” which takes in the planet and all the “amorphous forces” that operate in the new technological environment.4 Part Two Jared Diamond writes with his usual focus on biological forces in his book Guns. Germs and Steel and as usual, he gathers a mountain of evidence to prove a major line of argument, namely that natural forces are more influential in human history than we ever thought they were. His description of the way that the Americas were conquered by germs much more than by the guns and horses of the so-called conquerors from Europe highlights the importance of factors outside the control, or even in many cases the knowledge of human beings. In describing very large scale geographical events like temperature changes and droughts he explains how chain reactions occur, including mass extinctions of key species and migrations of people in search of steady supplies of key resources. The book is an example of “world history” because it reaches across the centuries from prehistoric times, through the stone age to classical and modern periods, tracking significant innovations as they spread across the globe. He argues, much like Mazlish and Manning, that looking at human history a huge scale of time and space ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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