Journal of World History, vol. 18, no. 4 (2007)


Weaving the Rainbow: Visions of Color in World History
Robert Finlay
pp. 383-431
Abstract: In considering both color vision and color values, this essay brings together natural history and human history. After describing the character and evolution of color vision, it examines positive and negative attitudes toward color in leading cultures of Eurasia. It goes on to discuss color perspectives in those cultures, an examination that discloses a Eurasian pattern: while rejecting color in significant respects, Japan also developed a sophisticated perception of it; China periodically followed the West Asian lead on color; and West Asia represented the radiant center of the Eurasian spectrum. Rejecting West Asia’s high valuation of color, classical Greece and Rome thereby established a European tradition that eventually was overwhelmed during the early modern period as a consequence of pigments and colorful commodities being imported from around the world. This foreshadowed the modern experience of rich color, a consequence of science and technology making universally available an extraordinary array of saturated hues. Such access to color distinguishes the contemporary world from all past societies.

Exotic Goods, Popular Consumption, and the Standard of Living: Thinking about Globalization in the Early Modern World
Anne E. C. McCants
pp. 433-462
Abstract: Evidence that privileges processes of consumption over those of production is critical to a reevaluation of nineteenth-century global integration and European economic growth. The growing body of documentation provided by early modern household inventory studies, along with new research on the contours of European demand for both imported manufactures and locally produced imitations, suggests that the time is now ripe for just such a reevaluation. Particularly, the consumption of tea, coffee, sugar, tobacco, porcelain, and silk and cotton textiles increased dramatically in western Europe beginning in the closing decades of the seventeenth century. Use of the new commodities spread rapidly, both in geographical and social space. A variety of household inventory studies from the Netherlands and England are used to document the presence of many of these so-called luxury goods by the working poor by the middle of the eighteenth century. European demand for these goods was fueled not only by the rich with their growing surplus incomes but also by the much more numerous lower and middling classes.


World History as Ecumenical History?
Dominic Sachsenmaier
pp. 465-489
Abstract: This article discusses the challenges and constraints on the way toward more ecumenical forms of world historical scholarship. Refuting the charge that world history is necessarily Eurocentric in nature, the article points out that it is impossible to discuss intercultural conceptions of world history without touching on the international structures, flows, and hierarchies that characterize the field. The article argues that several transformations within the social sciences and humanities may prove to be relevant for transcultural and world history. The article concludes that internationally convincing perspectives can be gained only if the international landscapes of historiography become more ecumenical.

The Problematic Authority of (World) History
Heather Sutherland
pp. 491-522
Abstract: Modern professional history developed in symbiosis with the bureaucratic nation-state and institutionalized science in nineteenth-century Europe, and the conventional grand narrative reflects an idealized view of modernity and modernization. Postcolonial states continued to conform, and location within the national narrative became central to entitlement. Any ostensibly universal account must try to transcend the epistemological and ideological bases of a heterogeneity of histories (vernacular, state-sponsored, and transnational), although any claim to epistemic sovereignty is entangled with the practice of power. Despite the realities of cultural difference and political interest, global interdependence requires a usable past. This article considers problems and possibilities.


Sing C. Chew. The Recurring Dark Ages: Ecological Stress, Climate Changes, and System Transformation
Reviewed by Eva-Maria Swidler
pp. 523-525

Alexander Woodside. Lost Modernities: China, Vietnam, Korea, and the Hazards of World History
Reviewed by Katrina Gulliver
pp. 526-528

Amiya Kumar Bagchi. Perilous Passage: Mankind and the Global Ascendancy of Capital
Reviewed by Stephen Philion
pp. 528-532

Sujit Sivasundaram. Nature and the Godly Empire: Science and Evangelical Mission in the Pacific, 1795–1850
Reviewed by Niel Gunson
pp. 532-535

Tony Ballantyne. Between Colonialism and Diaspora: Sikh Cultural Formations in an Imperial World
Reviewed by Thomas R. Metcalf
pp. 535-538