ABSTRACT

We are living through one of the most transformative times in world history. Indeed, ours is the age when histories have come together into a single process. This is because of a blend of world wars and singular inventions. By pitting colonial powers against each other, World War I raged over virtually the whole globe, from the Somme to East Africa and from Tientsin to the Atlantic. World War II even more dramatically and deeply enmeshed the globe, and burned from Glasgow to Hiroshima and from Papua New Guinea to Murmansk. Satellite communications, jet airliners and computers have helped to knit together the globe in meshes of more or less instantaneous exchanges and almost time-free travel. In older days it was arduous or impossible to travel from one of the main centers of civilization to another. It took years to travel from Europe to East Asia, and hardly less from India. Great swathes of the world were unknown to the rest – the interior of Africa, large parts of South and North America, large stretches of Siberia and many islands of the Pacific. Regions were relatively discrete from one another, and so we are wont to think of countries’ histories separately: we think of Chinese, Japanese, Indian, Tibetan, Persian, German, Italian history. But in our day, all these histories have flowed together to form, from now on, a single stream – world history. By the same token we are all (or virtually all) included in the processes of global economics, geopolitics and planetary ecology. From now on we are forced to think globally. And yet often our traditions of education and culture, especially in the West, because the West has not endured the impact of the West as a colonial power-source, lead us to think in terms merely of our own tradition.