1st GHC Summer School Tokyo/2015

Global History Collaborative First Annual Summer School

September 7-13, 2015 – Tokyo

Overall Title: The Question of Scale in Global History

Concept and Objective:

In global history studies that are not entrenched in the conventional frameworks of historical research, it is important to keep three “scales” in mind. These are the temporal scale, spatial scale and the scale of the subject.

What is the appropriate time scale for discussing a specific research topic? The time scale can range from the entire history of the universe or the Earth, and thus from an emphasis on the very longue durée, to events and specific moments, and thus to a focus on the synchronicity. Every topic can be studied using different temporal frames depending on the questions we ask. What scale is the most appropriate for our own topic and questions? How should the periodization used in national or regional histories be treated in global history? Is a different periodization needed in global history?

The question of what is the appropriate spatial scale for discussing a specific research topic is also a challenging one. The spatial scale can range from the entire Earth or regions of the Earth to villages or towns. Global history, by definition, should be concerned with the “world.” But, the scale of the “world” varies. Sometimes, one can see the world in an island, or a person, or an institution. Sometimes, it is planetary. Sometimes, a single unit can cross scales from the micro to the macro levels. Indeed, one important turn in global history has been towards tracking subjects across a variety of scales to overcome the dichotomous tendency to go global for “context” or go local for “detail”. As far as issues of space are concerned, it is helpful to differentiate between units and scales. Within the field of global history, historians have begun to explore alternative spaces beyond the nation states, ranging from oceans and large regions to networks and to micro-histories. But, whatever the unit of enquiry, historians can relate their unit of analysis to a variety of scales: local, national, regional, trans-oceanic, global. What are the advantages of opting for specific analysis of units? What are the effects of referencing multiple scales? To what extent do we locate causality on a global scale?

Furthermore, what is the appropriate scale of the subject being studied in a given research project? The subject of research can range from plants, animals, or individual or groups of people to the Earth as whole. It is possible to seek historical understanding and descriptions of a wide variety of subjects. Accordingly, the methods for understanding and writing historical narratives will inevitably differ by scale of the subject.

The question of scale is closely linked to the question of what the researcher wants to elucidate. In that sense, the question of scale is a shared concern for all global history researchers, irrespective of their specific research themes.

The objective of the summer school is to enable participants to gain new insight and knowledge and to produce high-level research through the exchange of ideas and information related to their individual research topics while paying sufficient attention to these three “scales.”

Faculty members of GHC institutions will attend the school to and discuss with students.

Dates: September 7 (Monday) to 13 (Sunday), 2015


Sep.7 to 9: The University of Tokyo, Institute for Advanced Studies on Asia
Sep.10, 11: Hokkaido University
Sep.12, 13: Excursion. Visiting historical sites related to scale issues of global history in Hokkaido


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