History: Global Encounters in the Pre-Modern World
We may think we live in a unique era of ‘global connections’ today, but long before the communication revolutions of the nineteenth century, people came into contact with other societies, religions and ideas from faraway parts of the world. Indeed, historians have even argued that earlier waves of globalization connected the medieval and early modern worlds in fascinating and often unexpected ways.
Recent approaches in history have explored the ‘global encounters’ and ‘global lives’ that emerged as a result of worldwide flows of trade, long-distance forms of migration, and other forms of circulation. In this week-long course, we will explore the different experiences of individuals whose lives were lived at the intersection of multiple worlds, for example between Islam and Christianity, between Europe and Asia, and between the Old World and the New World. We will try to understand why some historical contexts were the site for mutual understanding, toleration and coexistence, while others produced conflict, prejudice and warfare. Through focused case-studies that range across the entire globe, we will study the human faces of these exchanges and we will read in English translation some of the writings produced by people involved in ‘global encounters’.
You will be given use of Oxford’s libraries to write an essay on a topic of your choice related to the course, and this essay will be the basis of a tutorial at the end of the week. By the end of this course, you will have developed a firm foundation in the study of global history through a close study of the reading materials at the heart of Oxford’s history curriculum today.