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A Short History

Princeton UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Globalization is more than just the Internet. Think of the Mongols, whose global empire stretched from China to Europe.

Editorial Rating



This excellent short book by German historians Jürgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Petersson provides a fascinating, accessible sketch of the development of globalization. The authors bridge the gap between academic historians and general readers. While they discuss, in summary, issues of terminology and research primarily of interest to the former, they do not lose the latter. Many will be surprised to learn that at least part of the foundation of globalization as we know it may have been laid as early as the thirteenth-century Mongolian empire. The authors divide the history of globalization into four major phases, and offer provocative insights into the forces at work in each phase. At a time when many people believe that the term "globalization" connotes an entirely new world condition, this book is an indispensable corrective. getAbstract recommends it to history buffs, journalists, and employees and executives at international companies.


The Roots of "Globalization"

The word "globalization" actually describes a number of processes that are neither simultaneous nor always moving in the same direction. These processes affect different parts of the world differently. Globalization goes back much farther than the creation of the Internet and the development of modern trade relationships; it goes back to the barbarians. The Mongol Empire united the world for several consequential decades during the thirteenth century. Another phase of globalization began in the late eighteenth century and continued through the nineteenth, with the development of imperialism, the so-called industrial revolution and the spread of free trade. That phase came to a crisis in a shocking series of disruptions during the early twentieth century. Between 1945 and the mid-1970s, the main global orders of Soviet communism and U.S. capitalism emerged and coalesced into blocs.

Although people speak of today’s new global order as unprecedented, it has historical precedents. Networks that transcended national boundaries have existed throughout history. In fact, the nineteenth and twentieth century nation-states were something of an aberration...

About the Authors

Jürgen Osterhammel is a professor of modern and contemporary history at the University of Konstanz, where Niels P. Peterson is a lecturer in history.

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