This week we tackled the introduction and first three chapters of Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World. Those of you who are reading along with us may also have been struck by the sheer scale of Osterhammel’s panorama, and may through his accumulation of detail about how the nineteenth century saw itself and its own boundaries (temporal, spatial) have felt yourself led towards an understanding of what makes this epoch stand out from what came before and after. It’s certainly the case, as Samuel Moyn wrote in a 2014 review, that The Transformation of the World doesn’t have an American-style argumentative thesis. But there are claims that it advances, and chief among them this week is that there is an exceptional quality to this period: do you agree, as Osterhammel suggests at the beginning of Chapter Two (p. 47), that the long nineteenth century is particularly explanatory of our present? Do you agree with his strong claim for the nineteenth as a European century, best understood through European-driven attempts to standardize understandings of time, space, and the past? What surprised you most about what Osterhammel has to say in these introductory, orienting chapters? We have some ideas, but we’d like to hear yours as well! As always, let us know if you’d like to pitch a post relating to Osterhammel and big history more generally.
And now, here are a few interesting articles and pieces we found around the web this week. If you come across something that other intellectual historians might enjoy, please let us know in the comments section!
Peter Parsons, Rooting Around Oxyrhynchus (LRB)
Isabel Hofmeyr, The books that shaped the rise and fall of the British empire (The Conversation)
Pamela Newkirk, Bigotry on Display, on the commodification of non-white bodies in modern America (Chronicle)
Madeleine Schwartz reviews “Ennion: Master of Roman Glass” at the Metropolitan Museum in New York: They Once Touched Roman Lips (NYRBlog)
Mark Schrope, Medicine’s Ancient Roots in a Hidden Manuscript (NY Times)
Paul Voosen, New Imaging Methods Shine Light on Ancient Texts (Chronicle)
Michael Fontaine, Straight Talk About Gay Marriage in Ancient Rome (Eidolon)
Patrick S. O’Donnell, Bibliography: Women Intellectuals in the European Enlightenment (S-USIH)
In archive preservation news, Ian Cobain, Britain destroyed records of colonial crimes (The Guardian)
Alma Igra, Jordan Katz, and Mallory Ann Ditchey, Ancient Mesopotamian Beet Broth (Leftovers)