Periodizing Global History: What is Early Modernity? What is Modernity?
The language of ‘Early Modernity’ has become de rigueur across the humanities. But how far has it simply become a convenient way of referring to the period circa 1450-1750 CE, with the teleological meaning of the words quietly set aside? If many historians of the West are likely to be uncomfortable with the implied grand narrative, the irony is that the past two decades or so have seen global historians and specialists of Asian history take the label and run with it. Reclaiming a sense of forward progression for societies from the Ottomans to the Mughals and Japan, they have sought to give analytical content to the language of early modernity. However, this brings in its train some fraught questions, not least how we define modernity itself.

This informal workshop seeks to establish where different areas of the historical profession sit in relation to the question of large-scale periodisation and to start exploring some of its theoretical implications. Is it inherently Eurocentric to use this language or rather to deny its relevance for the world outside Europe? Does the notion of multiple modernities clarify or muddy the waters? Can we periodise through a ‘connective history’ evocation of early globalization or should we identify specific comparative features of nascent modernity? Do historians of the modern period believe in modernity? One significant theme will be the sphere of religion and its relationship to the state across Eurasia.

Many of the participants will give short talks, but the point is to generate an exploratory conversation rather than act as an occasion for the delivery of research outcomes. All welcome. Please email the organizer, Alan Strathern, if you intend to come so that we can gain a sense of numbers.
Date: 14 May 2024, 9:30 (Tuesday, 4th week, Trinity 2024)
Venue: Brasenose College, Radcliffe Square OX1 4AJ
Venue Details: Amersi Room
Speakers: Craig Clunas (Oxford; China), Faisal Devji (Oxford; Modern Islamic World), Azfar Moin (Texas; Mughals), Kiri Paramore (Cork; Japan/Confucianism), David Priestland (Oxford; Communist World), Joan-Pau Rubiés (Barcelona; Global Renaissance), Sadia Saeed (San Francisco; Historical Sociology), Alan Strathern (Oxford; Organiser)
Organising department: Faculty of History
Organiser: Alan Strathern
Part of: Oxford Centre for Global History events
Booking required?: Required
Booking email:
Audience: Members of the University only
Editor: Belinda Clark