While musing over this week’s core readings I have found myself distracted and reflecting on some of the current implications of a transnational or global approach to history. Interactions between countries, nations, and cultures shape who we are and how we view ourselves today more than ever. The easy access of the internet means that not only those lucky enough to travel are able to experience and learn of other cultures, and thus going forward their views are influenced by another culture through something as trivial as a YouTube video. Now, more than ever, this is leading to the influence of different cultures on the progress of our social developments. Celebrities and media, charities and politics are constantly creating points of contact between our culture and society and others. While it may be more apparent in our media than ever, this streams from a long history of international and global interactions between countries and cultures.
Jan Rüger’s article uses the primary example of the development of OXO cubes to discuss approaching history with this transnational mindset. OXO was, and continues to be, a meat stock cube of German invention made in South America by a London-based company. From the promising invention of Justus Liebig in Munich, the product was invested in and a company created in London, subsequentially manufactured in Uruguay and sold through out Europe. This global company grew rapidly after much advertising and endorsements. While a trivial example, the article indicates how it became a product connecting different actors divided by nation and culture and yet reliant and influenced by each other’s fortunes and actions. The success of this product, still a go to for most households (in the UK at least) relied on the economic, social and trade networks, pathways and connections of all the countries involved.
This interconnectedness and co-dependency exemplified by this company indicated the points of connection between nations, thus breaking down the boarders, literal and metaphoric, between the states and cultures. We can see not only the key event that divide us, but the areas where we come together and are not so different. In doing this, there is some concern acknowledged by Ruger that the important differences and characteristics of the nation that defined and differentiated from others and influenced a nation’s history become lost. However, highlighting these areas of connectedness indicates the importance of questioning the position of the nation state within a transnational and global context. If anything, I believe they can show us the true difference between two states. By studying the networks, we can see the similarities, just as important to understand as the differences, and we can see the areas of divergence. The areas where maybe culture or politics meant that the path was blocked and from here, we may investigate and ask questions. OXO again provides an example in the British image it fostered during the First World War, effective losing the German side of this Anglo-German story.
After some procrastination ‘googling’ it appears that since their conception in the late 19th Century, OXO have expanded their farmland and herds from Uruguay to Argentina, Paraguay, Rhodesia, Kenya and South Africa. Furthermore, OXO facilitated the first trade of beef products from South America for consumption and opened the doors of the South American beef industry – an industry with a complex network of international networks, relationships and influences of many, many different kinds. So many of our daily lives are influenced by small transnational and global interaction such as these. Tea, that hourly requirement by most Brits is another fine example. Without acknowledging and attempting to understand these interactions how can we expect to understand our economic, political and social developments that have led to the global world we are living in?