Stavrianos: The Firesetter of Global History

  The wave of globalization that started with Columbus’ landing in the Americas has grown from a trickle to an unstoppable trend today. Today’s world is already a small “global village”, during which the changes can be described as earth-shaking. Especially since the Second World War, with the decline of Europe, the formation of the US-Soviet hegemony, and the rise of the third world, “Eurocentrism” has become a thing of the past. In the field of history, the old world concept under the guidance of “Western-centrism” no longer meets the needs of reality, and needs to be re-evaluated, re-constructed and re-written. The emergence and development of “global view of history” is the concentrated expression and response of this historical research trend. In the article “Globalization and Global History View”, Yu Pei pointed out: “The emergence of the ‘global view of history’ is not accidental, it is the product of the development of historical science itself, but it is first of all a product of the times, that is, 15 The process of globalization started by the ‘Great Geographical Discovery’ of the 20th century continues to this day, and is the product of this particular historical era in the second half of the 20th century.”
  What is a global view of history? , the main starting point is to oppose the previous world history compilation system such as “Western-Centric Theory” and “Euro-Centric Theory”, so it is essentially “New World History”. The core viewpoints of the global view of history are, firstly, that the world is an organic whole that interacts with each other, and secondly, that various cultures have equal value and status. The global view of history can not only be used to study the world, but also can be used to study the microscopic.
  The famous British historian Barraclough is the sower of global history. American world historians, on the other hand, are the reapers of the rich fruits of global history: such as McQuay’s “The Rise of the West”, such as Stavrianos’ “Global History”, such as Warrenstein’s “Modern World System” , Such as Huntington’s “Clash of Civilizations”, such as John Wells Jr.’s “Global History in 1688”. Among these scholars and writings, McQuay and Stavrianos belong to the earlier scholars of global history, The Rise of the West (1963) is regarded as the sign of the birth of global history, and The General History of the World is regarded as the It is regarded as one of the representative works of global history. So Pierre Villar’s assertion appears unquestionable: “The history of the world is relatively young, and its insights are still pertinent. One often hears this ridiculous argument: what to say about our Knowledge is too rich, there are too many experts, the world is too big, a book cannot hold it, a person cannot study it, and an educational system cannot solve problems, so it is difficult to study world history. In fact, encyclopedic knowledge is the same as ‘thoughtful History’ ‘total history’ (that is, a general ‘view of history’) is complementary to each other.”
  Why has the United States become the center of global history research? With jeans, Coca-Cola, and McDonald’s moving from the United States to the world, the United States has moved from the former “periphery” to the world “Center of the World”. Especially since the 1940s, the strategic interests of the United States have made great strides from the natural territory of North America to the world, and experienced a series of major historical events such as the US-Soviet hegemony, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Middle East oil crisis, the Iranian hostage crisis and global anti-terrorism. , The United States needs a new world history theory that can provide reference. Coupled with the efforts of historians, the teaching and research of global history has flourished in its country. We see that whether it is McNeil and Stavrianos, or Warrenstein and Huntington, they are all American scholars without exception. It is no coincidence that their writings can have a worldwide impact and in fact reflect the inextricable link between academic research and national power. If they are scholars from third world countries, it is unknown whether their views and works will have any influence. The most influential historian of global history in China is Stavrianos.
  LS Stavrianos (1913-2004) is one of the most outstanding scholars of world history in the United States and one of the standard-bearers of global history. He started his academic career from the study of the Balkans, and then turned to the study of global history and published works such as “Global History”, “Human Lifeline Since Antiquity” and “Global Divide: The Historical Process of the Third World”. His well-known “Global History” is used as a textbook in many colleges and universities in the United States and other western countries, and many universities in China also use this book as a reference book for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching. China has also published two Chinese translations of the book and a photocopy of the seventh edition in English. As a history textbook, it is remarkable that it can get such a warm response in the reading circles. However, his masterpiece was both acclaimed and criticized in the professional history circles, which is somewhat similar to Spengler’s The Decline of the West when it came out.
  Stavrianos advocates a global view of history, rejects the “Western-centrism”, and advocates that “to understand Western history or non-Western history exactly, there is no point of view that includes both; only the use of a global point of view. In order to understand the degree of mutual influence of various nations in each era, and the role of this mutual influence in determining human history”. The development of his theory can be traced back to the “view of world history” of classical historians, especially the “view of general history” of the Greek historian Polybius. In the 2nd century BC, the rise of the Roman Empire made the world around the Mediterranean into a whole. Polybius proposed that a general history should be written, so as to reflect the development direction of the times. Stavrianos believes that the connection between the various parts of the contemporary world is closer than that of the Roman Empire around the Mediterranean world, and the era also provides historians with better research and writing conditions than any previous era. Following this line of thought, he proposed that historians should change the old way of teaching and researching world history and open up the field of global history. Starting from reality, Stavrianos put forward that “history teaches us that we must change in order to control change”. He believes that historians should be especially sensitive to change in times of unprecedented speed of change. History and reality prompted him to oppose the traditional “ancient-medieval-modern” triad of world history, emphasizing the importance of AD 1500 in world history, and taking it as the dividing line of “Global History”. This realization has basically reached a consensus now, and its influence is self-evident.
  Compared with the historical determinism in various historical perspectives, Stavrianos does not emphasize the inevitability of history in his global historical perspective, but proposes that the future and destiny of human beings depend on human consciousness. How to answer questions such as whether nuclear weapons will destroy the earth, according to the principle of the inevitability of historical development? The global view of history answers this question very well: as long as human beings can deal with nuclear weapons rationally, human beings will not self-destruct, otherwise The end of mankind will come at any time. In the final analysis, history is the history of mankind, not the history of a certain law. He did not put on a posture of holding the truth, but presented the facts and his own explanation more objectively, which easily won the resonance of the readers.
  In addition, his success is largely due to his extraordinary skill in controlling words, sparks of thought that can be seen everywhere and expositions full of compassion and compassion. In “Global History”, the author fully demonstrated his rich and colorful knowledge, calm narrative, proper arrangement of materials, and the organic combination of detailed description and macro narrative. When readers read this book, they will rarely feel a sense of difficulty and incomprehension.
  Of course, these merits do not mean that his writings are perfect. Just as Sima Qian thought that his “Records of the Grand Historian” was only “a family’s words”, not “an exclusive word”, Stavrianos’ “Global History” also has many problems.
  First of all, he believes that the research unit of global history should not be the nation or country used in traditional world history research, but those historical forces and historical movements that have an impact on the whole world. Based on this starting point, he opposed the view that “the history of the world is like a map of the world, and the relationship between all countries can be clearly and precisely displayed on this map”. From the analysis of the overall structure, “Global History” is indeed a study of the regions that produced these historical forces and historical movements. For example, the spread of agriculture and the expansion of civilization, the cross-regional trade of silk and spices, etc., the author spares no effort to analyze. However, from the perspective of specific content, the book is still narrated according to different civilizations. His research did not break away from the framework of Spengler and Toynbee, but made some corrections and refinements on their basis. For example, he opposes the research ideas of the former two that are separated from time and space, but are arranged in chronological order, and research is carried out according to civilized areas.
  In terms of research perspective, he believes that the research perspective of global history is an “objective perspective” similar to “standing on the moon and observing the earth”, and readers “draw views that are similar to those living in Washington, London, Paris, Beijing, New Delhi or other places. Observers in Cairo have a very different view.” This formulation looks attractive at first glance, but from a practical point of view, the only people who can actually stand on the moon and observe the earth are astronauts. Every historian must have his own realistic historical standpoint and research ideas. It is not difficult to see from his research that he actually takes Eurasia and North Africa as the core regions (this is determined by the development of the known history of mankind), and studies world history from this standpoint rather than the moon .
  In terms of the driving force of historical development, he believes that technology is a consistent central issue in world history, that is, “technology-centric theory”. He proposed that the known human history has experienced six technological revolutions, followed by the use of fire and tools, the agricultural revolution, the urban revolution, the commercial revolution, the first technological revolution and the second technological revolution. And in every new stage of human beings, social development always fails to keep up with technological development, which has become the source of misfortune and violence in history and even today. Especially today, nuclear weapons and genetic technology are not only changing the objective world, but also profoundly affecting the development and changes of human beings. Whether right or wrong, the author’s understanding has at least a strong sense of reality, and it does have its merits. The question is, is the ultimate driving force for the development of human society really technology?
  Throughout the book, Stavrianos frequently refers to words such as “science,” “progress,” and “reason.” These terms are indeed very attractive, and are more in line with today’s trends than “revolution”, “dictatorship”, and “superstition”. However, intentional or unintentional infiltration of ethnic color and ideology can be seen everywhere in his writings. For example, on post-war racial issues, he claimed that “the danger now is that worldwide anticolonialism will increasingly take on an anti-white character, creating unforeseen dangers”. But why anti-colonialism should oppose white people, and what is the danger in the end, he did not continue to delve into it. When talking about the prospects of world development, he once thought, “Today, the spread of the three major European revolutions (industrial, scientific and political) to the world, although carried out with the support of different parties, seems to be creating a kind of Although different in detail, it will be a world culture that is consistent in basic characteristics”. From this exposition, we can roughly infer that he believed that the European experience and achievements represented the global development direction, and finally realized the “great unification era” of mankind. Today, many countries oppose globalization and global history, but the unity of the world is becoming more and more obvious. This trend confirms his prediction to some extent. It’s just that he regards some universal values ​​as the unique products of Western civilization, and it can’t help but make people think that he has a sense of superiority of Westerners. However, from his focus on the rise, development and decline of the West since 1500 AD, we should seriously consider the historical experience of the success and failure of the West, instead of discussing “the residual poison of West-centrism” needlessly. After all, so far, only the West has been able to make the world voluntarily or compelled to accept its rules over an extended period of time.
  Human history so far can be regarded as a huge crystal ball. At first it presents a fragmented picture, but in the end it presents a complete picture. Stavrianos’ “General History of the World” can be regarded as a splendid landscape in this crystal ball.