Global and/or Transnational

Ship yard

In recent years, global and transnational history have emerged as strong areas of activity at Duke. Both fields seek to transcend national, continental, and other categories, which have long dominated the institutional structures of historiography. At our department, much research and teaching investigates transregional, transoceanic, and other long-distance connections throughout human history. This is the case with many different branches of historiography, ranging from economic history to labor history, from gender history to cultural history, from the history of religions to the study of transnational organizations, and from oceanic history to environmental history. Furthermore, there are a wide variety of emphases in graduate education, such as military history and comparative colonial studies, which provide forums for various kinds of bordercrossing scholarship. In addition, a number of our faculty have contributed to the methodological and conceptual literature on global and transnational history.

The growing interest in global and transnational history does not mean that historians abandon primary source work and careful analysis of local contexts. In most cases, practitioners of these fields work on a selection of case studies which they relate to each other and discuss as parts of wider networks of exchanges. In this manner, bordercrossing historiography does not merely accentuate many hitherto rather neglected facets of the past, it also invites us to critically reconsider the idea of nations and world regions such as “Europe” or “East Asia” as the main containers of history. 

The Duke Department of History provides ample opportunities to train graduate students in the study of different world regions and, at the same time, familiarize them with global and transnational historical approaches in a wide variety of fields. For example, our program offers specifically designed graduate seminars exposing students to important theories and methodologies in global history as well as related areas of research. Moreover, Duke offers its graduate students a strong infrastructure which allows them to advance their language skills, take courses in various regional studies, and collaborate with faculty there. They also benefit from our close cooperation with UNC-Chapel Hill, which offers a distinct graduate program in global history. In addition, graduate students can tap into Duke’s broad international connections and either study or do research abroad. Among other initiatives, Duke is now engaged in a transnational graduate network based on a close collaboration between the Free University of Berlin and Hanyang University in Seoul.