This statement was not made in one of today’s forums where the need for ‘a global history for a globalised world’ was preached. Neither was it uttered in a graduate seminar where enthusiastic young historians present their first historical research, nor in the ever-growing number of conferences and workshops where established scholars confront their work on ideas, commodities and other items on the move. Nor was it written in the last two decades, when more and more historians have tried to stretch the limits of their investigations and imaginations beyond the restrictions of the merely national. These words were pronounced in 1891 by the US historian Frederick Jackson Turner.1 Only two years later, Turner would again tackle the topic of the significance of history and pronounce his famous ‘frontier’ hypothesis. It was to become a touchstone of the idea that the United States of America was a country on a special historical track, different from other countries’ trajectories, and to be narrated as such. The tension between a relational outlook and an insular national history was thus embodied in one person, a member of the generation that made history a discipline within the framework of the research-based university.
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