Each era faces its own unique challenges of historical objectivity, and the academic history from each period becomes very much a product of the political and social climate from which it emerges. One of the significant features of the modern world is globalization, defined by Steger as a set of social processes by which local issues become more heavily influenced by global actions as people become increasingly aware of the interconnections between the local and the distant. It is my opinion that our brand of modern history is laced with traces of globalization, just as Roman historiography was clouded by the story-telling rhetoric of Livy, Sallust and Tacitus or as Christian historiography was rich with moral lessons and godly interventions.
Globalization, and the technology it has brought us, has no doubt revolutionized how we study history. The Internet, freer movement of students, and better equipment for analyzing relics and performing archeology have opened up a new facet of history where information is more available and more accurate than ever before. This allows historians to reduce the narrative of their work and let the facts and arguments speak for themselves under the harsh scrutiny of the world academic stage. But a move towards a globalized world has also brought less obvious consequences for historiography.
The closer the world becomes the more gaping the ideological differences become too. Trying to ally the desired histories of China, a country struggling in and out of Marxist determinist ideas and modern economic miracles; Syria, a country besieged by an extremist Islamic group with moral standards that would judge events far differently to ours; America, an increasingly isolationist state that’s seeing successful politicians breed off ideas of nationalism that hark back to the good old days; and ourselves in Britain, with a chequered history warped to fit the issues of the day whether that be Middle Eastern intervention, or an EU referendum.
Information has become the weapon of the globalized world. We see this when China goes to great effort to ensure the censorship of international search engine Google, because the information they possess could be the nail in the coffin of an increasingly unpopular government. Another example is with ISIS, who base their recruitment scheme on a fictitious version of history where white crusaders created Muslim conflict that had never been an issue before. It has taken the UK since 2009, or 7 years, to create the Chilcot Inquiry into the events of the Iraq war. This is no accident. History in modern global politics, is part of the web of information and misinformation that created and maintains the structures of this fast developing world.
This affects the study of history because it gives the subject a purpose outside of the purely factual or truthful element that a good historian seeks. To say that history goes on just inside the dimly lit rooms of studious academics is false. The globalized world makes this increasingly the case because a historian’s work can travel so much faster and further thanks to this process. And the fear of unpopularity is amplified by the ease with which the population could be mobilized into revolution.
History has many times been described as a mirror for civilization, and thanks to globalization, it is now also the ammunition for the modern war.