When Bernhard and Milinda asked us what prompted each of us to join this course I was immediately transported to my AP United States History classroom.

We were learning about the Civil War, again. This time my knowledge about American history was contextualised by the knowledge I gained the year prior in AP European History. I made the connection, embarrassingly, for the first time that the Civil War occurred less than 15 years after so many European nations dissolved into revolution in 1848. Had this always been the case? In my teaching, these two extremely consequential time periods had never overlapped, had never been compared, and had definitely never been discussed in the same classroom. Surely these political upheavals must have had some connection to each other. This now obvious revelation tremendously impacted the way I approached and understood history from that point forth.

However, despite my groundbreaking discovery, I continued to learn about American history as so separated from any other nation we could have been on our own dimensional plane. Apart from brief chapters on World War I and World War II and the international effect of the Great Depression, American history was just that, American history. Even when I took Approaches to World History as a wee freshman, each period we covered seemed to be removed from the next, like dispersed lily pads anchored to the muddy pond floor, never to touch or overlap. But their roots! Their roots are all anchored to the same swampy bed. They pull nutrients from the same soil and offer food and sustenance to the same fish that weave in and out of their stems. The lilies, so disconnected on the surface, are linked in infinitesimal ways which can be seen and understood if one simply looks beneath the murky water. Transnational history dives beneath the surface to examine the endless connections that the history of the world has to offer. A truly exciting prospect.

As some of my peers have already pointed out, the AHR discussion between quite a few scholars offered a welcome reprieve to the typical academic journal article. I felt like I was reading an email chain between co-workers! They had email back then right? 😉

The first half of the article was enlightening to just how complex a field Transnational history is. Each new voice introduced a new explanation of global, international, world, and transnational history which resulted in an interesting and informative scholarly debate. I found Patricia Seed to be particularly engaging with her comments on anachronisms in transnational history. Can one analyse contemporary concepts such as race and class in ancient Rome when those words meant something entirely different to the Romans? Traditional historians might turn their nose up at such a thought, but the discipline of transnational history allows scholars to compare the features of ancient society to those of contemporary societies in a meaningful and enlightening way. Seed explains that using contemporary vocabulary as a way to blend the past and present “remains one of the methodologically central mechanisms” in historical writing (Bayly et al, 1442)”. Isabel Hofmeyr further explains that transnational history opens up the discipline to a “world of comparative possibilities” pointing to the longstanding Global North/South binary as an example topic whose complexities have long been simplified by the traditional segmented approach to historical study. While at points the article seemed to lose focus—though it could have been me who was losing focus—it offered a comprehensive introduction to how we can define and approach the enticing field of transnational history.

Transnational History: avoiding anachronisms