The Global History and Culture Centre: 15 Years and Counting
Published: 9 January 2023 - Guido van Meersbergen
In 2022, Warwick’s Global History and Culture Centre (GHCC) celebrated its 15th anniversary. Founded in 2007 by Professor Maxine Berg, GHCC was the first research centre dedicated to the field of global history to be established in the UK, and quickly took on a leading role in developing the methodology and practice of this sub-discipline. Today, GHCC counts ca. 50 Warwick academics and PhD students amongst its members, in addition to several dozen external affiliates based at institutions around the world. The research interests of our members span the entire globe and range from antiquity till the present, with particular strengths in global material culture, the history of science, technology, and the environment, and histories of colonialism and decolonisation in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Despite this diversity of topics, all members share an interest in tracing processes of which the impact stretches beyond individual states or regions, as well as in exploring how our areas of focus took shape through contacts and connections with other parts of the world.
Over the past year and a half, a major theme that has stood out in our activities is ‘decolonising global history’. We have approached this topic in a number of ways: by holding small-scale reading and discussion meetings, discussing our different positions vis-à-vis decolonial concepts and theories; by holding a series of larger thematic meetings, such as conversations on the place of Latin America in the field of global history, on the politics of global history, and on decolonizing global health, respectively; and by hosting a major online conference on ‘Decolonising Travel Studies: Sources and Approaches’, in collaboration with the Hakluyt Society. It was also a key theme in several contributions to our annual conference on 'The History of Science and the "Big Picture"Link opens in a new window' held in June 2022, including the keynote by Professor Clapperton Chakanetsa Mavhunga (MIT).
Our conversations about the structural inequalities shaping the field of global history have led us, together with colleagues at the European University Institute in Florence, to form an international network involving a broad range of global history practitioners from around the globe. Following two online meetings in which we identified shared concerns and challenges, we have now begun initiatives for co-teaching and are preparing for an online postgraduate summer school on “Global History and the Global South” as well as in-person meetings between network members to take place in 2023.
GHCC members, October 2021
Looking ahead, GHCC seeks to continue its role as a leading centre for the study of the global past both within Warwick and internationally. At Warwick, we aim to encourage further exchange between regional specialists and ensure close involvement of postgraduate students and postdoctoral and visiting researchers in our community. For instance, in the coming months we will organise the “First Books in Global History” and “Non-English Sources for Global History” workshops, host three international visiting fellows, and host our annual conferenceLink opens in a new window on 25-26 May 2023, which will this year focus on the role played by archaeology and empire in the making of the modern Middle East. In planning our events, we place particular importance on achieving a diverse representation of topics and speakers reflective of our discipline’s global span. All activities are open to anyone to attend, and often involve social gatherings over lunch or coffee, starting with the New Year’s reception on 11 January 2023. You can find the full programme on the GHCC website, which also contains our Blog featuring regular reports from GHCC members about their ongoing research.
Beyond Warwick, GHCC continues to engage pro-actively with global historians based in other institutions inside and outside the UK. Through involvement in various networks and collaborations, our members contribute to discussions about the present and future shape of global history and the intellectual and practical challenges involved in addressing the inequalities that characterise the discipline. Besides the new network mentioned already, GHCC also collaborates with Japan-based global historians in conversations around the categories at work in global history, maintains separate collaborations with colleagues in Sweden, India, and Jamaica through various projects supported by Warwick’s International Partnership Fund (IPF), and works to strengthen local links through the Global Coventry project.
After 15 years at the cutting edge of the discipline, Warwick’s Global History and Culture Centre is well placed to continue playing a leading role as the field of global history takes new directions and addresses new challenges. As always, the key to the intellectual success of the Centre is the terrific research of our members and external partners. As we start another year, it is my pleasure to thank everyone for their contributions and welcome anyone with an interest in global history to sign up for our mailing list by emailing Amy Evans (Amy.Evans@warwick.ac.uk) and participate in our exciting programme of eventsLink opens in a new window in 2023.
Guido van Meersbergen is Assistant Professor of Early Modern Global History at the University of Warwick and Director of the Global History and Culture Centre. Interested in early modern trade, travel, diplomacy, and ethnography, he is the author of Ethnography and Encounter: The Dutch and English in Seventeenth-Century South AsiaLink opens in a new window (Brill: 2022) and co-editor of Trading Companies and Travel Knowledge in the Early Modern WorldLink opens in a new window (Routledge: 2022). He is also co-leads the Global Diplomacy NetworkLink opens in a new window.