A Global History of (Political) Thought?

byzantine map in the circular with writing in the corners

The purpose of this webinar is to think about some of the ways in which the history of political thought otherwise known as intellectual history, and especially that associated with the so-called Cambridge school of ‘contextualism’, has engaged with the questions posed by globalism, globalisation and the prospect of global history. 

It’s a fairly novel intellectual problem and thus blessed with a rather small textual corpus. But the following three items, I think, are most ripe for interesting discussion. The first, review essay, poses one key question – whether context is dead in a global world, and reviews some attempts to deal with this. The second, Dunn’s rather romantic essay, proposes a professional and political imperative for Global (big G) history of political thought. The third, Pocock’s most recent contribution, engages with both of the above in tandem and critique. It also spends a little more time thinking about the pre-global, so-called ‘Axial Age’, which we all technically find ourselves in as historians of the pre-modern world.  

I am tempted to withhold from offering Byzantine reading, in large part because this specific question or consequence of global history has not really made its way into the kinds of engagements at hand in the field. Should you wish to dip into that scholarship and the way it is framed, I have included the comprehensive introduction to the Global Middle Ages edited volume in the reading list. But this is optional. 

I look forward to hearing your thoughts on the big problems emerging from these, and apologise in advance for some of the intolerable prose. Dunn and Pocock both are considered amongst the ‘founders’ of the Cambridge school alongside Quentin Skinner, and clearly living long enough to be considered ‘a school of thought’ does wonders for one’s sense of humility.  


Convener Mirela Ivanova 


R. López, ‘The Quest for the Global: Remapping Intellectual History: Review of S. Moyn and A. Sartori eds., Global Intellectual History (New York, 2013)’, History of European Ideas, 42:1 (2016), pp.155-160, 

J. Dunn, ‘Why We Need a Global History of Political Thought’ in B. Kapossy ed., Markets, Morals, Politics: Jealousy of Trade and the History of Political Thought (Cambridge, MA, 2019), pp.285-309. 

J. G. A. Pocock, ‘On the unglobality of contexts: Cambridge methods and the history of political thought’, Global Intellectual History, 4:1, (2019), pp.1-14. 



C. Holmes, N. Standen, ‘Introduction: Towards a Global Middle Ages’ in eds. The Global Middle Ages (Oxford, 2018), pp.1-41.