Itinerario to host on-line discussion with Prof. David Armitage
The Itinerario editorial board is pleased to present a stimulating interview with Prof. David Armitage, Chair of the Department of History at Harvard University, in the latest issue of the journal.
A historian of political thought by training, David Armitage has reinvented himself twice in the past decade, first as a historian of the Atlantic World and now as a practitioner of international/global history. He generously agreed to be interviewed for Itinerario in June. The interview became a wide-ranging conversation about his intellectual Werdegang, the interrelationship of Atlantic and world history, and the historian’s craft in the 21st century. How do we do research in a fast-changing, increasingly interconnected world? What should our priorities be in terms of, for example, subject matter and the use of digital media? Do we have a moral responsibility to connect to audiences outside the university’s gates? And if so, how do we best do this? Professor Armitage’s answers to these and many other questions were bold and thought-provoking.
In line with Professor Armitage’s passion for new digital media, Cambridge University Press has graciously made the interview freely available on the Itinerario Facebook page, which can be found on www.facebook.com/journalitinerario. Professor Armitage and the editorial board hope that this piece will spark a more broad-based debate. To that end, Itinerario will host an online conversation with David Armitage on the Itinerario Facebook page from 20 November to 2 December. The editorial board has selected a few of the more audacious claims from the interview, such as the ones given below, which will be posted on the page as starting points. All are invited to participate, whether student or faculty, subscriber or new reader. Please leave your reactions and spread the word! Professor Armitage will review the comments and add his own thoughts. After 2 December, the editors will report on the discussion on this blog.
Are We All Global Historians Now?
David Armitage: “No, not in the sense that we are all doing global history. We certainly are in the sense that all historians now have a global audience, thanks to the Internet. But in one strong sense we could say that we all have to be global historians now. By that I mean, if you are not doing . . . this formulation will get me into trouble, but let me nevertheless put it in these strong terms: if you are not doing an explicitly transnational, international or global project, you now have to explain why you are not. There is now sufficient evidence from a sufficiently wide range of historiographies that these transnational connections have been determinative, influential and shaping throughout recorded human history, for about as long as we’ve known about it. The hegemony of national historiography is over.”
The Future of Atlantic History
David Armitage: “I think one of the futures of Atlantic history is precisely joining it to other oceanic and trans-regional histories. That is part of the logic of what we discovered about the limits of Atlantic history: it can be too broad to encompass things but also too narrow to deal with trade flows, migration flows, and flows of goods and ideas. We need to think about the interrelations between these oceanic arenas and how in some sense they add up to a global or proto-global history.”
Historical Scholarship and The Digital Divide
David Armitage: “In terms of academic institutions, we [i.e. Harvard] have immense computing power —large amounts of money are being put behind it here. But that is not true everywhere, even within the relatively well-funded higher education system in the US. Most students and scholars do not have access to the full range of databases that exist behind high and costly pay-walls. So, yes, what about Benin, what about India, what about many other parts of the world, even Latin America, for instance, how will they get access to these tools and techniques? That is a question that goes beyond the capacity of academics, but that is a one that we have to consider in so far as the promise of the digital revolution is universal access to things that had so far been allowed only to the privileged and accredited few.”
You can read the concluding post on the interview with Professor Armitage, ‘Are we all Global Historians now?’ here.