About methodological nationalism and the communicative situation. Critique and an alternative

Abstract

About methodological nationalism and the communicative situation. Critique and an alternative

Historisk Tidsskrift 04/2012 (p 490-510)
While historians were central in interpreting the national breakthrough in Norway in the late 19th century, and in creating the national story about the working class’s entry within the centre of the state system in the first half of the 20th century, the dominant practice of Norwegian history has largely been marginal and shown little interest in interpreting the third great wave in Norwegian modern history; namely the impact of what can be called the «international breakthrough» and the globalization process on Norway’s development over recent decades. How this historiographic situation is understood and explained will affect the ability of the Norwegian historical community for self-reflection, and the theoretical, methodological and conceptual choices historians will make. The article discusses the fruitfulness of the term «methodological nationalism», which the Norwegian Research Council through its evaluation of Norwegian historical research has launched to raise awareness of this situation. It shows that the concept is not fruitful – for theoretical, empirical and conceptual reasons – if the goal is a balanced reflection of the development of historical studies and of methodological conventions and opportunities. The article promotes a different, less politicized, historiographic interpretation and discusses another term and an alternative method that might help historians explore the development of societies in new and more fruitful ways, including the nation’s development.

Keywords: communicative situation, globalization, historiography, methodological nationalism.

 

Why England and not China and India?

2010: Why England and not China and India? Water systems and the history of the Industrial Revolution, Journal of Global History, 5, 29-40, 2010.

Abstract

Global history has centred for a long time on the comparative economic successes and failures of different parts of the world, most often European versus Asian regions. There is general agreement that the balance changed definitively in the latter part of the eighteenth century, when in continental Europe and England a transformation began that revolutionized the power relations of the world and brought an end to the dominance of agrarian civilization. However, there is still widespread debate over why Europe and England industrialized first, rather than Asia.

This article will propose an explanation that will shed new light on Europe’s and England’s triumph, by showing that the ‘water system’ factor is a crucial piece missing in existing historical accounts of the Industrial Revolution. It is argued that this great transformation was not only about modernizing elites, investment capital, technological innovation, and unequal trade relations, but that a balanced, inclusive explanation also needs to consider similarities and differences in how countries and regions related to their particular water systems, and in how they could exploit them for transport and the production of power for machines.