Admittedly, after two and a half months of studying this module, I still would not be able to give a clear definition of what ‘transnational history’ is. However, unlike when I started this module, I think now I actually find this liberating rather than terrifying. After watching everyone presenting their projects on Tuesday, it struck me how broadly the term ‘transnational’ could be interpreted, from histories dealing with inherently transnational organisations such as the International Committee of the Red Cross on the one hand, to a much more microhistorical approach such as the history of a particular brewery on the other. That has been the most enjoyable part of this entire course for me personally. Seeing how each person approached transnational history so differently has been really enlightening, as people have picked up on links that I have never even considered before. And that, I think, is the strength of this particular approach.
Despite how different all of our topics were, I also think there is one thing they all have in common – people. Each one of us brought agency to people and particular connections who would be difficult into more traditional narratives. Even in my own case, where the specific actor I chose to focus on appears in countless histories (no surprise given that he is a British prime minister), the certain connections and networks of his that form the basis of my work are somehow completely under-represented in existing historiography. Even those of us whose projects deal with the movement of ideas or objects (of which mine is one), their importance always appears to be in the way people interact with these ideas and objects. For example, my initial idea for a project was to simply look at the way in which ideas about state-funded welfare became popular across the world from the nineteenth century onwards. However, it quickly became clear that the only way to look at how ideas crossed borders was to look for interactions between individuals.
I think, then, if transnational history has taught me one thing it is that agency is everywhere in history, and that the more we look at individuals and their interactions with one another, the more we realise they do not fit neatly into the boxes imposed by national historiographies. Beyond that, my own personal opinion of what a transnational history should be keeps evolving, but I actually now think that is actually part of the subject’s appeal. No other history module has made me question the relevance or the goals of my work anywhere near has much as this one has, and although this has been a huge challenge at times, it is one that I am grateful for.

Two Months On – What Do I Think?
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One thought on “Two Months On – What Do I Think?

  • April 22, 2016 at 10:21 am

    You captured something I absolutely adored about this class. The focus on people and what people do (or did) is what made this so fascinating to me. Your identification of agency as key to what we’re studying is precisely the piece of this project that has been so immersive, at least for me. In this class, moreso than in any other, I feel as though we are considering the actors of the past as real people. I don’t know if you took HI2001, but this part of the class reminded me of when we discussed the interdisciplinary approaches of the Annales School; I feel as though we’ve actively borrowed from other disciplines (from anthropology to economics to geography) to form our individual theses, and I think that has made all of our work stronger.

    I think we’re all on the same page with regards to defining ‘transnational history’; just check out the other blog posts from this week for proof! And with regards to questioning your own work, I can’t wait to see what you go on to do with it!

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