Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Comparative and Transnational History

Comparative and Transnational History: Central European Approaches and New Perspectives

Heinz-Gerhard Haupt
Jürgen Kocka
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 312
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Comparative and Transnational History
    Book Description:

    Since the 1970s West German historiography has been one of the main arenas of international comparative history. It has produced important empirical studies particularly in social history as well as methodological and theoretical reflections on comparative history. During the last twenty years however, this approach has felt pressure from two sources: cultural historical approaches, which stress microhistory and the construction of cultural transfer on the one hand, global history and transnational approaches with emphasis on connected history on the other. This volume introduces the reader to some of the major methodological debates and to recent empirical research of German historians, who do comparative and transnational work.

    eISBN: 978-1-84545-803-4
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Heinz-Gerhard Haupt and Jürgen Kocka
  4. Comparison and Beyond: Traditions, Scope, and Perspectives of Comparative History
    (pp. 1-30)

    The discussion on comparative history(vergleichende Geschichte, histoire comparée)is ongoing. Its value is praised; its benefits are acknowledged. But most historians are not interested in systematic comparison. Indeed, there is no lack of old and new objections to comparative history, or at least to certain types of comparative history. The topic remains controversial.¹ The current boom in transnational and transregional approaches—in the form of ‘entangled histories’ (Verflechtungsgeschichteorhistoire croisée)—gives the issue of comparison a new timeliness. We can observe a certain upsurge in comparative history over the past decades; progress, however, has been limited, and comparison...

  5. PART I Comparative and Entangled History in Global Perspectives

    • CHAPTER 1 Between Comparison and Transfers — and What Now? A French-German Debate
      (pp. 33-38)

      In recent years a lively and instructive debate about comparative history has reignited, with the jumping-off point of classical comparative history. Comparative history has come to be more widely practiced in both Europe and the US since the 1970s, though only by a minority of historians. It was well received among US historical sociologists, as well as exiles from Europe, and gained significant standing through a rediscovered essay by Marc Bloch from the 1920s. Since the 1990s comparative history has been practiced more often in Europe than in the US, particularly in Germany (Berlin and Bielefeld). Comparative history was one...

    • CHAPTER 2 A ‘Transnational’ History of Society: Continuity or New Departure?
      (pp. 39-51)

      The following text is a revised version of a contribution first published in the journalGeschichte und Gesellschaftin 2001.¹ At that time, the editors were organizing a round table on the question of the desirability and possibility of a ‘transnational’ history of society. I was invited to provide a comment because of an academic background that is rather unusual for German historians. For a long time, my main fields of interest have been modern Chinese history and the history of the British Empire. In earlier articles, I had advocated historical comparisons occur not just between European countries or societies...

    • CHAPTER 3 Double Marginalization: A Plea for a Transnational Perspective on German History
      (pp. 52-76)

      ‘There can be no doubt’, asserted the historian Hermann Heimpel of Göttigen at the end of the 1950s, ‘that the time of a historical observation based exclusively on the nation state is over. The historical science must dare to jump into the planetary future, also in the recording of the past’.² This plea can still serve today, a half-century later, as a historiographic guideline. To be sure, one would not want to stylize Heimpel’s as a postcolonial, transnational approach of the kind that I propose in the following chapter.³ Heimpel’s ‘planetary future’ has become in the meantime a globalized present,...

    • CHAPTER 4 Entangled Histories of Uneven Modernities: Civil Society, Caste Councils, and Legal Pluralism in Postcolonial India
      (pp. 77-104)

      In the heyday of modernization theory just thirty years ago, solidarities of caste, community, and religion were considered to be undesirable relics of the passing of ‘traditional’ societies destined for the dustbin of history. There were no communitarians then about who would have shared the widely prevalent belief in India that communities whose ways of life must be preserved and protected were shaped by individual identities. Theorists of social capital had yet to discover that dense social networks of any variety furthered civic ties and democratic values. Viewed with deep suspicion, religious communities on the subcontinent were believed to be...

    • CHAPTER 5 Lost in Translation? Transcending Boundaries in Comparative History
      (pp. 105-130)

      Comparative history, especially in Western Europe, views itself as transcending the traditional focus on nation states and opening up to a new, global perspective of the world.¹ By extending the space given in university studies and in research first to Eastern Europe, but in the longer perspective also to non-European countries, it sets out to overcome not only provincialism, but also the power structures ingrained in historical research. Practitioners of comparative history, Hannes Siegrist claims, generally consider themselves specialists of a dialogue between cultures conducted on an equal footing.²

      On the other hand, historians of non-European countries, particularly those researching...

  6. PART II Transnationalization and Issues in European History

    • CHAPTER 6 The Nation as a Developing Resource Community: A Generalizing Comparison
      (pp. 133-148)

      Generalization is one of the basic forms of historical comparison.² In scholarly research on nationalism, this approach has been used for some time. It is one of the central insights of all nationalism research—even when used as an instrument for nationalist purposes. Comparison relies upon generalization, and generalization is open for application to different forms of comparison, which are discussed and tested here.³ The most influential courses of study, however, aim for a generalizing comparison that reveals the effects of both national ideas and practices. The nation’s model of development, as well as the intentions, perceptions, and beliefs of...

    • CHAPTER 7 Birds of a Feather: A Comparative History of German and US Labor in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries
      (pp. 149-177)

      Ever since Werner Sombart posed his famous question, ‘Why is there no socialism in the United States?’, the comparative view on the history of labor in Germany and the US has stressed marked differences between the two countries, if not completely divergent paths of development.¹ Whereas the German case has been represented, preferably in Marxist terms, as a historical role model on a global scale when it comes to the strength and ideological aptness of the organized labor movement, the American storyline always alluded to the US’s deficiencies and failure to live up to that alleged standard. In the current...

    • CHAPTER 8 Visions of the Future: GDR, CSSR, and the Federal Republic of Germany in the 1960s
      (pp. 178-203)

      Since the collapse of the SED regime, calls for a comparative embedding of GDR history have been raised ever more, and have been in part fulfilled. Three perspectives are to be differentiated: firstly, a comparison with ‘the other German dictatorship’; secondly, a comparison with other socialist states; and, thirdly, a comparison with the Federal Republic. Most theoretical and methodological approaches have been concerned with comparisons of dictatorships.¹ Despite extensive agreement in principle that such comparisons are sensible and necessary, their not insubstantial methodological problems have been emphasized, so that empirical work in this area has, up until now, remained limited...

    • CHAPTER 9 Comparisons, Cultural Transfers, and the Study of Networks: Toward a Transnational History of Europe
      (pp. 204-225)

      There is a very vivid debate among European historians on how to transcend the national paradigm in historiography. Since the institutionalization of history in the nineteenth century, the nation state or the territory inhabited by the own national group has served as the main point of reference for historians. Major developments in the history of the European nations and nation states have been researched and explained with an internalist perspective. One can characterize this as ‘methodological nationalism’, which has particularly influenced the ‘big’ nations of Europe, their historiography, and also their traditions of comparative history.¹ Not surprisingly, in recent years...

    • CHAPTER 10 Germany and Africa in the Late Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries: An Entangled History?
      (pp. 226-246)

      Until very recently, Germany’s colonial past was more or less ignored by both professional academics and the wider public.² This ignorance had to do with the widespread conviction that colonialism had to be equated with colonial rule. Thus, Germany only was allocated a place at the margins of colonial involvement. There is no doubt, of course, that the German colonial empire was not very important in economic terms and only lasted for little more than three decades, between the 1880s and the First World War. Still, it would be wrong to argue that because German colonial rule was so short-lived,...

    • CHAPTER 11 Losing National Identity or Gaining Transcultural Competence: Changing Approaches in Migration History
      (pp. 247-271)

      The migration of men and women—whether individually, in families or in cultural groups—connects societies. The study of migration might thus have been comparative or transsocietal by definition. However, scholars’ socialization in one particular culture and their embeddedness in the respective polity’s discourse prevented them from noticing the obvious. Approaches reflected the period’s climate of opinion (Carl Becker) or frames of reference (Maurice Halbwachs).¹ Unless they totally overlooked it, European historians traditionally have studied emigration from each and every nation state separately, and their North American peers have studied immigration by distinct ethnic group. In this nation-centred reading of...

  7. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 272-275)
    (pp. 276-290)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 291-294)