Browse Methods
Investigate world history approaches to analyzing different kinds of primary sources.
Stellar diagram features a drawing of a ship surrounded by Chinese characters

Primer: Oceans

Oceans, which cover approximately 70 percent of the earth’s surface, have played a crucial role in shaping human history. Using oceans and seas as a unit for analysis is, however, a relatively new framework for historical analysis. The traditional units of historical analysis include civilizations, continents and especially nation-states.

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Close-up image of an early modern Islami Carpet

Primer: Transcultural History

Broadly, transcultural histories include those historical contexts and processes brought about by circulation of people, objects, and knowledge through travel, trade, migration, or globalization.

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Graphic of a tree crosscut showing rings

Primer: Environmental History

Environmental history lends itself particularly well to a world history framework. Environmental processes do not limit themselves to national or cultural borders. The climate, for example, has always been a global system. Environmental history may also consist of unusual sources and feature "archives" that exist in the natural world.

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Ptolemy's Map displays a out of proportion western Europe, Mediterranean, and North Africa.

Analyzing Maps

The map is one of the oldest forms of nonverbal communication. Humans were probably drawing maps before they were writing texts. Mapmaking may even predate formal language. As far as historians and geographers can determine, every culture in every part of the world uses and makes maps.

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Primer: Imperialism

World history courses often feature the rise and fall of various empires, but often little attention is paid to the concept of empire itself.

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A woman kneels and holds a piece of stone at an archeological site

Analyzing Material Objects

The modules in Methods present case studies that demonstrate how scholars interpret different kinds of historical evidence in world history. This module developed by historian Daniel Waugh explores how historians interpret material objects to better understand the past. Examples of objects include Turkish water jugs and Byzantine coins among others.

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Title page of The Voyages and Adventures of Ferdinand Mendez Pinto

Primer: Transnational History

Transnational History encompasses all history that transcends the national level. As a field within the discipline of History, it arose out of dissatisfaction with what was called “methodological nationalism”: the assumption in most historical inquiry that the nation-state is the main building block of history.

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Primer: Defining World History

World history is the study of the past at the global level. World historians use a wide spatial lens, though they do not always take the entire world as their unit of analysis.

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Primer: Tasting and Hearing the Past

Experiencing the full spectrum of world history involves all the senses. World historians not only use their eyes to see what happened; they not only read or otherwise examine written and visual evidence. Tasting or hearing the past can offer unique insights into familiar and fundamental dimensions of another time and place.

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Title page of A Narrative of the Life and Adventures of Venture A Native of Africa, but Resident Above Sixty Years in the United States of America Related by Himself

Primer: Global Microhistory

In 1791, the commander of an East India Company ship commented on the interplay between macro-level political and economic forces and the decisions and actions of seemingly marginal actors: “Forgive me for mentioning the circumstance which I do, to show, amongst numberless other instances, how a splendid act of government may be linked with the conduct of obscure individuals, separated even fro

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