It was great to see some of you browsing through last year’s posts, comments, readings – that is precisely the purpose of running “the soul” of MO3351 on this site. Keep going, browsing, interacting with previous students’ thoughts.

Now, this week the question of “histoire croisée” (Michael Werner & Bénédicte Zimmermann) came up, along with other questions on the relation between comparative history and transnational history. Are they compatible, mutually exclusive or interdependent? Or are they in fact Chicken and Egg (a never-ending circle)?

So what comes first? The comparison-transnational conundrum
So what comes first? The comparison-transnational conundrum

We have already hinted at Kiran K. Patel and his “Soldiers of Labour” (2005). As we said, comparative history can come first, with transnational history (i.e. the focus on connections and transfers, movement) coming in second, as another layer to explain similarities via connectivity – as another “way of seeing”.

Also, there were some first thoughts and questions on potential projects that could mainly be driven by a comparative approach (sailors in French and British army prior to 1800). Yes, you can – see Patel. But what we would like to inspire is some thinking how comparative and transnational can relate or can be combined. That could be a focus for the shorter (conceptual) essay. It could take up questions we have already had in class: what is a method? what is an approach? Such an essay could be both historiographical as well as conceptual – in order to get a better grasp of the different strands that have led to where we are today: transnational history.

Here are some reading suggestions:

Deborah Cohen, Comparative History. Buyer Beware (2001). Cohen is also co-editor of a book on “Comparison and Beyond” (see course hand book).

Heinz-Gerhard Haupt, Comparative History – a contested method (2007). There is also the excellent co-edited volume by Haupt and Jürgen Kocka on “Comparison and Transnational History“.

Lastly, I would alway recommend the classic text by Marc Bloch “Toward a Comparative History of European Societies” (1928). (A bit hidden away the English version.)

Comparative History (chicken?) – Transnational History (egg?)
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