Journal of World History, vol. 20, no. 4 (2009)


Putnam, Dennett, and Others: Philosophical Resources for the World Historian
John E. Wills Jr., 491

This article presents resources for thinking straight about the global history enterprise that have not been widely recognized or discussed by practitioners. Several important philosophers are discussed briefly; fuller attention is given to two. Hilary Putnam presents a nuanced account of human reason and flourishing that goes beyond the fact–value dichotomy that often bedevils our work. Daniel Dennett does much to clarify the nature of the evolutionary processes—natural, social, and cultural—we discuss and the elements of cultural interaction and learning, sometimes called “memes.”

Translation as Self-Consciousness: Ancient Sciences, Antediluvian Wisdom, and the ‘Abbāsid Translation Movement
Hayrettin Yücesoy, 523

This article discusses the translation of ancient Greek, Indian, and Persian texts of philosophy and sciences into Arabic from the eighth through the tenth centuries C.E. In particular, it addresses the issue of how ancient sciences were justified and legitimized in the early ‘Abbāsid period (ca. 750–850). Modern scholars have so far devoted a great deal of attention to the role of the caliphate and its administrative elite in the translation movement, but they have by and large neglected the role of prevailing ideological and intellectual discourses as a major component of the legitimating process in ‘Abbāsid society. Less concerned with documenting practical needs or emphasizing the role of the caliphate to explain the history of the translation movement, this article explores how the narratives of prophetic and antediluvian wisdom as a discursive intervention shaped, within the broader context of scholarly consciousness, the reception history of ancient sciences. It argues that the reference to occult and prophetic knowledge, often attributed to Hermes, as the source of all knowledge, articulated, with the idioms of the developing discourse of ‘ilm, the desire to cast ancient sciences as part of an Islamic monotheistic narrative and the emerging historical consciousness that embraced the past as a theater of prophetic action.

A Victorian Ecological Disaster: Imperialism, the Telegraph, and Gutta-Percha
John Tully, 559

Until the invention of the electric telegraph, messages sent across the vast colonial empires of the nineteenth century took many months to arrive. By 1907, some 200,000 nautical miles of cable criss-crossed the ocean floors. Insulation of the cables from seawater relied on gutta-percha, a natural plastic related to rubber. Gutta-percha is all but forgotten today, but during the Victorian era it was a household word. Ironically, the high-tech Victorian telegraph industry was served by a primitive cottage industry. The gum was extracted by killing wild trees in the forests of Southeast Asia, and the scale of demand ensured that many millions of trees were destroyed. This industry brought about a Victorian ecological disaster that presaged the greater destruction of tropical rain forests occurring today.


The “Internationalization” of U.S. History: A Progress Report for World Historians
Robert Shaffer, 581

As the field of world history grew in the 1990s, so did a comparable effort by American historians to “internationalize” the study of U.S. history. Four new books show the considerable strides that have been made in showing how the global context of American events not only adds to U.S. history but also changes some of the ways in which professors and students see the United States and its role in the world. World historians too can learn from and contribute to this intellectual trend.


Shawn William Miller. An Environmental History of Latin America
reviewed by Christopher R. Boyer, 595

John Bodel and Saul M. Olyan, eds. Household and Family Religion in Antiquity
reviewed by Geoffrey Nathan, 597

Karen Barkey. Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective
reviewed by John J. Curry, 601

Paul Gillen and Devleena Ghosh. Colonialism and Modernity
reviewed by Mathilde Leduc-Grimaldi, 605

Takeshi Hamashita. Linda Grove and Mark Selden, eds. China, East Asia and the Global Economy: Regional and Historical Perspectives
reviewed by Paul A. Van Dyke, 607

Benjamin N. Lawrance. Locality, Mobility, and “Nation”: Periurban Colonialism in Togo’s Eweland, 1900–1960
reviewed by Colleen E. Kriger, 610

Jeffrey L. Gould and Aldo A. Lauria-Santiago. To Rise in Darkness: Revolution, Repression, and Memory in El Salvador, 1920–1932
reviewed by Paul Almeida, 612

Sandra Ott. War, Judgment, and Memory in the Basque Borderlands, 1914–1945
reviewed by John Bieter, 616

Greg Behrman. The Most Noble Adventure: The Marshall Plan and How America Helped Rebuild Europe
reviewed by George Fujii, 619

Peter Clarke. The Last Thousand Days of the British Empire: Churchill, Roosevelt, and the Birth of the Pax Americana
reviewed by Justin D. Lyons, 622