Theories of World History since the Enlightenment

Michael Bentley

in The Oxford Handbook of World History

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199235810
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

Theories of World History since the Enlightenment

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  • Methods and Historiography



Theorizing about world history often remains under the blanket of a seemingly empirical narrative and that the investigation of it implies the scanning of hundreds of such narratives. It follows that its story cannot be told in a short introduction to the subject as a continuous chronology. In order to illuminate at least some of its more important twists, this article presents a series of snapshots aimed at clarifying the half-dozen major moods and turns that have played an important part in transforming a subject which the eighteenth century invented into one that it would no longer recognize. The typology's various segments should be seen as progressive through time but overlapping in time rather than successive stages of an evolution. The discussion considers universal history, the Weltgeschichte, modernism, postmodernism, and postcolonialism.

Keywords: universal history; modernism; world history; postmodernism; Weltgeschichte

Article.  8630 words. 

Subjects: History ; Methods and Historiography

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