World history has enjoyed renewed popularity in recent years, largely because economists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians, and other students of "globalization" are increasingly interested in how areas of the globe that were once thought to be distinct have actually been interconnected for a very long time. This field engages these currents by encouraging graduate students to think beyond familiar boundaries, to identify multi-sited research projects, and to design pedagogically meaningful syllabi for teaching world history. The core problems course as well as the related graduate courses in a variety of fields support a conceptualization of world history that spans the pre-modern and modern periods, without accepting as a given their conventional chronological distinction. Courses in the field also cross East-West and North-South divides, working against facile national or continental categories.

As with all historical fields, world history has a particular genealogy. The contemporary fascination with "the global" shares methodological concerns with comparative and international history and relates to themes of colonialism, postcolonialism, and empire. But world history goes beyond these fields to help us understand both the specificity and origins of our own global moment and to visualize the variety of terrains in which transnational influences have shaped social, political, economic, cultural, and other developments.  Understanding points of connection and divergence across time and space both complicates and enriches our attempts to historicize the human experience.

A major or minor in this field prepares students to think beyond conventional borders, study the complex interactions between different parts of the world, and historicize the structures of power that have fostered conflict and violence world-wide. It also furthers an understanding of the intermixture and fusion of cultural forms and practices across local and regional borders.  Courses in the field raise questions about the boundaries between "East-West," "North-South," and "local-global" by exploring the multiple and interconnected histories between them and the intricate ways in which their connections have constantly been mediated and translated by regional structures and relations.

Despite the fact that the nation and the nation-state have long dominated historical writing and thinking, especially though not exclusively in the modern west, historians of many different interests have countered these narratives with more transnational -- if not global – scholarship.  Related fields in the history department that support this field include the histories of colonialism and postcolonialism, the history of science, environmental history, international relations history, gender and women's history, labor history, and cultural history. Our strong area studies programs (in Africa, Latin America, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Eurasia, the Middle East and South Asia, and East Asia) as well as our U.S. ethnic studies programs (Afro-American, Latino-Latina, Asian-American, Native American), Gender and Women’s Studies program, and Institute for Communications Research are equally important sites for interdisciplinary work, given their long-standing engagement with transnational problems and themes.


  • Ikuko Asaka - (Ph.D., University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2010), African American Diaspora and Transnational History, Race, Intimacy, and Empire, Gender and Sexuality, U.S. in the World to 1877.
  • James Brennan- (Ph.D. Northwestern University, 2002), Africa, South Asia, political thought, urbanization, media, Islam.
  • Antoinette Burton- (Ph.D., University of Chicago, 1990), Modern Britain; South Asian women; feminist/cultural theory; women in the British empire.
  • Kai-wing Chow - (Ph.D., California-Davis, 1988) Intellectual and cultural history of Ming-Ch'ing China.
  • Clare Crowston - (Ph.D. Cornell University, 1996): early modern European women's/ gender history; women's work and women's guilds.
  • Ken Cuno - (Ph.D. UCLA, 1985), Social, economic and legal history of the early modern and modern Middle East.
  • Peter Fritzsche - (Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 1986.): modern German and European history, comparative questions of memory and identity and vernacular uses of the past in modern Europe.
  • Poshek Fu - (Ph.D., Stanford, 1989), Modern China, film culture, Hong Kong cultural and social history.
  • Kristin Hoganson - (Ph.D., Yale, 1995), United States in world context, cultures of U.S. imperialism, globalization.
  • Craig Koslofsky - (Ph.D., University of Michigan, 1994): culture and religion in late medieval and early modern Europe, especially the Holy Roman Empire; daily life in early modern Europe.
  •  Ralph Mathisen - (PhD, Wisconsin, 1979), Late Antiquity, Roman History, Roman Law, Ancient Numismatics, Prosopography, Computer applications.
  • Dana Rabin - (Ph.D. University of Michigan, 1996), Early Modern Britain; legal, cultural, and gender history.
  • David Sepkoski - (Ph.D, University of Minnesota, 2002): transnational history of science, Big History, environmental history.
  • Carol Symes - (Ph.D. Harvard University, 1999), Medieval Europe within its Afro-Eurasian context, founding executive editor of The Medieval Globe: the first academic journal to promote the globalized methodology and practice of medieval studies; the mediated transmission of knowledge, documentary cultures and their contexts, manuscript studies, history of communication technologies.