Global Intellectual History

Scholars have traditionally studied ideas and intellectual history within national, regional, or civilizational contexts. But as part of a broader “global history” movement, historians have begun to interpret the rise and spread of ideas as a global phenomenon. This useful collection includes scholars who study the paths of ideas such as Confucianism, republicanism, and market economics by examining what happened when intellectuals in one country grappled with the ideas of another. Others focus on the great forces that push and pull ideas around the globe, such as commerce and conquest. One of the more interesting chapters reveals that the particular European ideas about civilization and society that made their way to Japan during the late nineteenth century just happened to be ones that the Japanese authorities could use to legitimize their reorganization of the state. Lurking in the background of the book is a charged question: Is global intellectual history another way for the strong to dominate the weak, or is it a way for diverse peoples and societies to search together for knowledge?

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