In the beginning we wanted to know what transnational history was and to pin down a definition; then we realised that we shouldn’t seek a rigid definition and instead should keep what transnational history was as a fluid concept; now I think we are beginning to understand why that was necessary.
For me transnational history is filling in the gaps and cracks left by more established forms of historiography. Transnational history builds spider webs of connections between different historical concepts and ideas and between national histories. I think that part of the reason transnational history is so hard to define is that its strength is in its malleability, it can fit wherever you need it to; wherever previous historiography has overlooked. It can give a voice to the voiceless and grant individuals agency and importance in narratives they may have otherwise been excluded from. Transnational history can call into question the barriers and limits we impose on ourselves as historians and on the subject matter we study; it reminds us to question everything from the words we use when writing to why we are studying something in the first place.
One thing that occurred to me right at the start of this course is how the discipline will look years from now when transnational historians come to study our present time period. With so many of us living our lives online will connections become easier to trace or will important ones be obscured simply because there is so much ‘noise’ now?
A related thought is the fact that there seems to be this perception that human connectivity has been continually increasing until the present day, albeit with some bumps along the way, and I am beginning to wonder if this is actually true. Perhaps by the time the early 21st century is studied the connections of previous centuries will have been traced and mapped and historians will find that our globalising world was actually encouraging people to retreat back into national boxes both conceptually in terms of identity formation and physically as the world beyond our borders is portrayed as ever more hostile.
I think this idea of increasing connectivity in later modern history also has the side effect of implying a time period for transnational history in a similar way to the term itself; transnational implies that we should not look beyond the start of the importance of the nation on the world stage. I think if anything this module has taught me, it is not to underestimate the past. Human beings have always been connected and ideas will always flow across artificial boundaries. Human life has never fitted into the neat little boxes that we employ for analytical purposes and historians would do well to always remember this.

Some final (ish) thoughts….