Polychronicon 156: The transnational history of the First World War


By Jay Winter, published 24th September 2014

With the publication in 2014 of the Cambridge History of the  First World War, we enter a new transnational phase in the historical understanding of the conflict. The reasons why this change has come about are evident.

The first is that there are more transnational historians writing the history of the Great War than ever before. Given the 30 years of exponential growth of higher education in Europe and North America between 1960 and 1990, we now live in a world where historians born in one country have been able to migrate abroad to follow their historical studies and either to stay in their adopted homes or to migrate again, when necessary, to obtain a university post. Christopher Clark was born in Sydney, studied in Berlin, and finished his studies in Cambridge, where he is now Regius Professor.

John Horne was born in Adelaide, trained at Oxford and Sussex, and teaches in Trinity College, Dublin. Fifty of the 70 authors of the three-volume Cambridge History of the  First World War, which I edited, are transnational scholars, practising history far from their place of birth, and enriching the world of scholarship thereby. Seeing the world in which we live at a tangent, in the words of Kafavy, opens up insights harder to identify from within a settled world...

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