Those sceptical of the more extravagant claims made about globalization often point out that the level of international trade and investment in the belle epoque of the late 19th and early 20th centuries was at least as high as it is today (e.g. Hirst and Thompson, 1996). Others point out that networks of military, social and economic relations which allow actions in one place to have significant consequences across vast distances, are hardly new (Holton, 1998). Europeans brought their diseases to the New World in the 16th century with catastrophic results. In economic terms, prior to the First World War, Great Britain exported 7& of its gross domestic product (GDP) in capital, a level no state since 1945 has yet achieved (James, 2001: 12). As historians point out, we have seen a lot of the sorts of things we associate with globalization before; indeed they remind us that we tend to forget that things came badly unstuck last time around when openness led on to cataclysmic war in 1914 (e.g. Ferguson, 2005). How new is globalization? To what extent do the levels of integration we have today differ from levels achieved in previous global or universal eras? Questions about novelty are important because they provide some welcome perspective to cool the ardour of the more enthusiastic globalizers, but they are significant in themselves because they force us to think about the nature of the phenomenon as well as its historical trajectory.
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