As the semester finishes, so does one of the more academically challenging modules I’ve taken and I have a few thoughts still left over. At various points throughout, I have been fascinated, frustrated and confused by transnationalism and its methodology and practicality. Whilst the topic has been a very enjoyable enjoyable one, I admit to a degree of cynicism and frustration which has waxed and waned throughout the semester. One comment is that transnational historians can spend far too much time discussing and defining what it means to be a transnational historian. The paragraph to page introduction that are dedicated to this purpose which accompany many of the articles in my reading for the course have frequently left me feeling somewhat frustrated with the discipline. This admittedly might partly be because of my own more practical persuasion when it comes to doing history, I prefer to crack on with the topic at hand rather than debating methodology. Naturally, historiography is important, we must understand why and how we make the choices we do when writing history, however transnational history’s novelty as a distinct subsection of history I feel has often resulted in to greater focus on this.
I also feel that occasionally some of the readings from the course have been far too quick to compartmentalise transnational history from other historical practices. Certainly even back as far as the AHR conversation, there was discussion of postcolonial, global and transnational history as separate entities and boxes within history. I feel that to an extent, there is merely good and bad history. Whilst placing transnational subjects at the centre of projects and focus is certainly a novelty that has come with the new discipline, transnationalism has also always been unavoidable in some historical subjects. For example, Gandhi and Nehru are essential parts of the story of Indian Independence. Both these men led undoubtedly transnational lives, being being educated abroad and Gandhi in particular was famously inspired by a racist conductor in South Africa. Drain theory is also an integral part of the argument for independence, involving the international movement of goods and capital between the Raj and Britain, theorised in 1867 by Dadabhai Naoroji. Similarly the fight against Apartheid, relevant to my project, saw the Desmond Tutu act transnationally, traversing the globe to inspire an international movement, whilst the ANC crossing southern Africa whilst exiled from their homeland. I would argue that if historian of either of these topics were to exclude these details they would be writing bad histories. In world which sees linkages and the international movement of people, goods and ideas surely it is the historians responsibility to reflect this. A good history should take into account all relevant disciplines of history, for example, transnational, economic, social, etc. In defining transnationalism as something so radically new and different, I feel there is a danger that it will limit its application across other histories rather than placing it as another tool in the toolbox of all historians. I would carefully suggest that transnationlists could be more inclusive and open in their definition of their discipline, drawing hopefully more historians into the fold.
However these are merely a couple of issues which I have personally found frustrating in what is overall a fascinating topic and discipline. Transnational history is a fantastic tool for highlighting those actors, flows and ideas that did not consign or limit themselves to national boundaries, an area that can sometimes fade into the background in a historiographical tradition dominated by the nation state. Furthermore, this is becoming evermore relevant in globalised world. Transnational history has definitely grown on me over the semester. It is a brilliant lens through which to examine history, and it is undoubted that in the past, it has been severely neglected. I will certainly be sure in future to keep the transnational in mind during all my writing. The module has been a great experience and I overall I have throughly enjoyed both the discussions in class and the new way of looking at history.

Thoughts on a semester of transnationalism.