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Global History II: The World In 1750

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Customer Service. Still, the cumulative effect of The Transformation of the World is less than the formidable sum of its parts.

I found myself dipping into the book over a period of days, browsing through topics of interest—religion, nationalism, schooling—without understanding why one topic followed upon another. The great recent achievement in the genre of global history is the late C. Bayly is more argumentative, more willing to claim that this mattered more than that, with World War I as a natural, even inevitable conclusion to his story.

‘The Transformation of the World’, by Jürgen Osterhammel | Financial Times

The usual art of crafting a historical narrative rests on appreciation for change over time, vivid characterization, and a willingness to see certain events as decisive. Much of this is absent from The Transformation of the World. Great figures from Charles Dickens to Napoleon dash onto its pages for a cameo appearance and then disappear until their next appearance on an entirely different topic.

The Crimean War appears thirteen separate times in the index, but only for hurried one- or two-sentence references. Surprisingly, the Jesuits appear eleven times in the index, twice as often as, say, Abraham Lincoln.


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  5. But every reference is to pre-suppression Jesuits, and how new knowledge created in the nineteenth century superseded their scholarly and linguistic achievements, especially in China. In itself this is not unfair. But having just finished a book on global history and the modern Jesuits, I think it suggests an imbalance between what historians know of the pre-suppression Society and the actual achievements of the Jesuits after But his placement of the chapter on religion, nestled toward the back of the book and covered in under thirty pages, works against that premise.