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Jeroen Duindam on Writing a Global History of Dynasty

Jeroen Duindam on Writing a Global History of Dynasty

Jeroen Duindam, Professor of early Modern History at the University of Leiden, will be speaking on "Writing a Global History of Dynasty: Choices, Challenges, Chances" at a departmental seminar on Tuesday, September 6th, at 3 pm in Crown Center 530. 

Duindam shares the following description of his talk:

Does it make sense to write a comparative history of dynasties across the globe? Many historians will have serious doubts. Global comparison, some argue, necessarily views the world through the prism of one region, using one cultural standard to measure others. Profound cultural differences are buried under bland general clichés, or forced into rigid typologies and teleologies. Indeed, after the cultural turn the effort to define patterns of behaviour shared by people in many places and periods has found few outspoken advocates. Most global historians nowadays focus on connections and exchanges; they examine the process of globalisation. Global comparative history, conversely, mostly deals with the ‘divergence’ debate: when and why did the West obtain its marked advantage? These two very different forms of global history therefore usually deal with only a limited number of cases: either the zones connected by the traffic of people, goods, and ideas, or the winners and near-winners of the global economic contest. They are global in inspiration rather than in scope. 

In my talk I will explain the motives and design of my book about dynasties. It is a statement about the enduring relevance of comparison, and an experiment in resolving some of the problems of global comparison. What makes dynasty a suitable theme? Which questions can be asked at a global level? And how can it be helpful to compare African chiefdoms without script with the Chinese empire, in terms of scale and development as well as the immense difference in source materials? What criteria did I use to select my cases? And why could a book along these lines not have been written one or two decades ago? I will illustrate these general statements with examples and outcomes, outlining each of the book’s main themes and questions about rulers, dynasties, courts and their place in the realm at large.

Duindam is the author of Dynasties: A global history of power 1300-1800Royal Courts in Dynastic States and Empires: A Global Perspective and Vienna and Versailles: The Courts of Europe's Dynastic Rivals, 1550-1780‚Äč

All are welcome, including graduate students and undergraduates.