The articles this week proved the challenges of defining transnational history. I also became aware of the difficulties of separating the various different terms that are connected to transnational history, such as international, world, global, and comparative history, as discussed in the “AHR Conversation: On Transnational History.” I came out of these readings somehow more confused, as the complexity of the subject shows itself, specifically as historians are trying to pin down one concrete definition. My understanding, although I am unsure if I am correct, is that transnational history aims to connect the interwoven histories of countries by looking at aspects other than the nation, such as the collaboration of ideas, sharing of technologies, and the overlapping of cultural practices. The growth of a nation cannot happen independently, as there are always outside factors influencing a country, such as trade or immigration. Transnational history sets out to reveal these connections between nations that are not obvious at first glance.
From the AHR conversation, I was able to understand that international, world, and global history, while separate from transnational history, all come together to help reach a new understanding of the world, one where we are able to break out of the singular nation-state analysis that so much of historical research is based upon.
When doing the initial reading for this module, I was shocked at how I never considered the importance placed on national history throughout my education, and the stark separation in how we learned about the history of the United States versus the history of the world. Even the world history classes we had were taught through the perspective of the United States, and how our own country was important within the more global narrative. Transnational history within education allows students to further question the connections between countries. It encourages students to challenge accepted ways of thinking and expand on different types of analysis in order to find new connections within our world.
At the end of the discussion, Sven Beckert describes transnational history as a “way of seeing” that is able to incorporate a number of different methodological preferences and is open to many different types of questions. (1459) From my perspective, transnational history may be difficult to define, but that is part of the beauty of the discipline. The possibilities of research are limitless, and there are so many different ways one could take a topic. I am not only excited about how I am able to expand my understanding of the world through a new topic of interest, but also learning about each of the different topics that everyone decides to investigate!