Skip to main content

16: Historical Debates

In recent years global history has seen the emergence of important topics of debate. Among them three have particular resonance: first, some historians claim that we now entered a new geological age - that of the ‘Anthropocene’ - in which humans act as a geological force of change of our environment: climate change, desertification, resource depletion are just some of the topics part of the Anthropocene debate. Global climate is likely to produce global migrations. The movement of people across the globe – either through migration or as refugees - is a further topic of debate in global history. This is the subject of the seminars this week. The third big debate, which is the focus of the first of the lectures this week, is on the legacies of imperialism in the modern world.

Seminar Questions:

• Is it true that today’s global migration is very large?

• Which are the social and economic consequences of migration?

• And are politicians right to worry about migration?

Key Readings:

Dipesh Chakrabarty, ‘The Human Condition in the Anthropocene’: The Tanner Lectures in Human Values. Lecture 1. Climate Change as Epochal Consciousness.

Giovanni Gozzini, “The global system of international migrations, 1900 and 2000: a comparative approach,” Journal of Global History 1/3 (2006), pp 321-341.

Additional Reading:

Further Readings on the Environment and the Anthropocene

Julia Adeney Thomas, “History and Biology in the Anthropocene: Problems of Scale, Problems of Value,” American Historical Review (December 2014): 1557–88.

Wolfgang Behringer, A Cultural History of Climate (Cambridge, 2010).

Alison Bashford, Global Population: History, Geopolitics, and Life on Earth (New York, 2014).

Christophe Bonneuil and Jean-Baptiste Fressoz, The Shock of the Anthropocene: The Earth, History (London, 2017).

Peter Boomgaard and Marjolein't Hart, “Globalization, Environmental Change, and Social History: an Introduction,” International Review of Social History, 55 /supp 1 (2010), pp. 1-26.

John L. Brooke, Climate Change and the Course of Global History (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Dipesh Chakrabarty, Keynote Lecture: The Anthropocene Project. An Opening. HKW Anthropocene:

Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The climate of history: Four theses” Eurozine, 2009: and the lecture

Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs and Steel: a short history of everybody for the last 13,000 years (London, 1998).

Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Survive (London, 2005), esp. ch. 12 ‘China, Lurching Giant’ and 16 ‘The World as a Polder’.

Erle C. Ellis, Anthropocene: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2018).

Emmett, Robert, and Thomas Lekan, "Whose Anthropocene? Revisiting Dipesh Chakrabarty’s 'Four Theses,'" RCC Perspectives: Transformations in Environment and Society 2016, no. 2.

J. Donald Hughes, What is Environmental History? (Cambridge, 2006), esp. pp. 77-93.

Bruno Latour, Facing Gaia. Eight Lectures on the New Climatic Regime (Polity, 2018).

Bruno Latour, Down to Earth, Politics in the New Climatic Regime (Cambridge, 2018). J. R. McNeill and Peter Engelke, The Great Acceleration: An Environmental History of the Anthropocene Since 1945 (Harvard, 2016).

Joachim Radkau, Nature and Power: A Global History of the Environment (Cambridge, 2008).

Jan Zalasiewicz et al., “When Did the Anthropocene Begin? A Mid-Twentieth Century Boundary Level Is Stratigraphically Optimal,” Quaternary International 30 (2014): 1–8.

Why we Still Need a Human History in the Anthropocene': Exeter University Blog:

Further Readings on Global Migrations

Adam McKeown, ‘Different Transitions: Comparing China and Europe, 1600–1900’, Journal of Global History, 6/2 (2011), pp. 309-19.

S. Castels and S. J. Miller, The Age of Migration (New York and London, 1998). R. Cohen, Global Diasporas: An Introduction (London, 2nd ed. 2008).

David Eltis, ed., Coerced and Free Migration. Global Perspectives (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2002).

D.R. Gabaccia and D. Hoerder, eds., Connecting Seas and Connected Ocean Rims: Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and China Seas Migration from the 1830s to the 1930s (Leiden and Boston, 2011).

J.D. Gould, “European Inter-continental Emigration, 1815-1914: Patterns and Causes,” Journal of European Economic History, 8/3 (1979), pp. 593-679.

Wang Gungwu, “Migration and Its Enemies,” in Bruce Mazlish and Akira Iriye, eds., Global History Reader (New York, 2004), pp. 104-14.

T.J. Hatton and J.G. Williamson, The Age of Mass Migration. Causes and Economic Impact (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998).

D. Hoerder, Cultures in Contact: World Migration in the Second Millennium (Durham and London, 2002).

J. Lucassen and L. Lucassen, eds., Migration, Migration History, History. Old Paradigms and New Perspectives (Bern, 1997).

J. Lucassen, L. Lucassen and P. Manning, ‘Migration History: multidisciplinary approaches’, in J. Lucassen, L. Lucassen and P. Manning, eds., Migration history in World History: multidisciplinary approaches (Leiden and Boston, 2010), pp. 3-20.

Adam McKeown, ‘All that is Molten freezes Again: Migration History, Globalization, and the Politics of Newness’, in Bryan S. Turner, ed., The Routledge International Handbook of Globalization Studies (Abingdon, 2010), pp. 162-181.

Adam McKeown, ‘A World Made Many: Integration and Segregation in Global Migration, 1840-1940’, in D.R. Gabaccia and D. Hoerder, eds., Connecting Seas and Connected Ocean Rims: Indian, Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and China Seas Migration from the 1830s to the 1930s (Leiden and Boston, 2011), pp. 42-64.

P. Stalker, Workers without Frontiers. The Impact of Globalization on International Migration (London, 2000).

A. Timmer, J.G. Williamson, “Immigration Policy prior to the Thirties: Labor Markets, Policy Interactions, and Globalisation Backlash,” Population and Development Review, 24/4 (1998), pp. 739-771.