Transnational history is a relatively new term, which, as Bayly suggests, has not become relevant to the historical narrative until after world war one. This school of thought looks at a larger global picture which have helped to shape history. Chakraberty highlights how, throughout European history, there has been a tendency by historians to localize the narrative to such an extent that it becomes ‘provincialized’. The unfortunate truth is, that traditional teaching methods of history lean towards a Euro-centric perspective, and ignore the larger picture. Transnational history instead takes on a far more holistic approach to the writing and practicing of history.
Jan Ruger demonstrates the transnational aspect of the OXO cube, which gained large scale popularity after the first world war. Essentially a German invention, financed by Britain, produced in Uruguay and in distributed from Antwerp, the OXO cube clearly highlights the increasingly interconnected world which fueled globalization.
Transnational history, and the practicing of it, makes light of the importance that nationalism has had throughout historical narratives and the legacy which it has today. Ruger articulates how the OXO cube, despite being an inherently transnational product, came to be a symbol of ‘Britishness’ during the first world war. Advertisement campaigns focused on the Best of British, with OXO aligning themselves with the British navy, and the jewel in the navy’s crown, the Dreadnaught. This kind of nationalism was again seen in Zahra’s chapter regarding the Germanization of annexed Czechoslovakia. There was a clear indication throughout this period that the Germans looked to Germanize, or most likely indoctrinate, the children rather than the adults. Funding from the Nazi regime was focused on schooling, Kindergarten and changing curriculums. This is not to say that the aging population was totally ignored, but to a near enough extent, it was forgotten. Similarly, the Nazis recognized the potential threat that the future generation could pose to their regime and as a result treated the annexed Czechoslovaks with increased respect than other alien races they deemed inferior.
Bayly’s argument that transnational history would not have been useful pre-1914, is in my opinion wrong. To suggest that globalization occurred only after the first world war, with the advent of products such as OXO entirely disregards the interconnected patterns seen in history throughout the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, the East India Company was an entirely transnational venture, for example, the ship Arniston sailed through St Helena, Madras and then China and on her last voyage became shipwrecked off the coast of Africa. Trade was conducted on an international scale, with ventures being set up globally, especially with the advent of companies such as the British and Dutch East India Companies. To view such links as bi-national is in effect wrong, and presents an all too simplistic historical narrative.
Transnational approaches to history are therefore centered around people, and therefore goes beyond the traditional realms of economic or political history, which typically takes on a bi-national approach. Instead, networks are studied, culture is taken into account and a macro image is thereby produced. Unfortunately, there is still a trend within the school of history to look at a singularly national approach, subscribing a certain number of factors to causing an event, rather than looking at a larger picture focused on any number of different influences which may have caused the ‘flash point’ leading to historic moments.