The Time of World History: Essaying Marshall G.S. Hodgson’s Work on Islamicate Societies and Afro-Eurasian World History
In his time, Marshall G.S. Hodgson (1922–1968) was a highly regarded historian of Islam at the University of Chicago. He is best known for his three volumeVenture of Islam, which is still in circulation and apparently used widely. He is much less known for his work on Shi’a Islam and other, smaller groups within Islam, and he is not at all known as a world and global historian, despite the publication of some of his essays on the subject. It is the latter that concerns us here, but the purpose is not to vindicate Marshall Hodgson as an unduly forgotten world historian, although there is the completed draft of a world history to be rescued. But for all its merits, this draft world-history is less interesting, because more conventional, than is thoughts on the subject, which he scribbled down in an endless series of notes and comments that make his papers a unique treasure chest. Hodgson’s notes on chronology and periodization, mostly in the context of his efforts to re-spatialize world history, are a case in point.
The starting point for these considerations is Hodgson’s furious rejection of “the westward distortion in history,” which is commonly associated with Edward Said on the one hand and Dipesh Chakrabarty on the other hand. This oversight is grossly unfair, because Hodgson had published on the subject, and while an initial publication, in 1944, appeared in a journal for Quaker Social Studies teachers, his follow-up essay, in 1954, was much admired as maverick approach by Lucien Febvre and appeared in the first volume of the Cahiers d’histoire mondiale. A third essay appeared in 1963 in Comparative Studies in Society and History. Perhaps, the reason for the undue neglect was and is that Hodgson thought that in order to provincialize the West, Europeans and Americans would have to be introduced to the world’s histories; that is, be confronted with the world’s pasts, in which “Europe was never essentially at the center of world history before 1700AD” and was rapidly moving out of the center once again in the present time. World history was Hodgson’s tool to provincialize Europe. His text, however, also suggest the magnitude and the difficulty of the task, and in thinking through these difficulties I see Hodgson’s main contribution to the subject.
Hodgson’s world historical interest preceded and permeated his work on Islamic history. In fact, he “invented” world history from scratch as it were as undergraduate at the University of Colorado, when the United States entered war. As a radical Quaker he became a conscientious objector. As anti-war activist he was interned from 1943–1945 in Camp Elkton in Oregon and in 1945–1946 served out his time as orderly in the mental health hospital in Concord, NH. It is in this period, before he entered graduate school, that he articulated an initial set of ideas—against Orientalism, for a transformative world history—that he expanded and moderated over the years, but never abandoned. What disappeared is his initial hope that world history teaching would develop in tandem with the mobilization of world-wide non-violent resistance against war and oppression, among which racism and colonialism figured prominently. In the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi—like many Pacifists and Civil Rights advocates in the United States at the time, Hodgson was inspired by Gandhi’s writings—he set out to write world history, not as an academic exercise, but as an act or, rather, as a process of non-violent resistance as self-transformation.
Marshall Hodgson wanted to know what it took to make sense of a world shaken by global war and how to prevent future wars. World history, he argued was the answer, but world history had to free itself from the “optical illusion” of a mere regional approach in general and dominant western perceptions of the present and past worlds above all. “[W]e should not allow our special need for Occidental history to destroy our chance to learn world history.” It had to recast, quite literally, a sense of space and time. In practice, he frantically calculated demographics to score the point that you could not possibly neglect three quarters of the world’s population in a world history. Much later, in 1950, he would insist that “[w]e Americans and Europeans have been a minority riding on top of the world.” In order to write world history appropriate for the age, it needed a radical transformation of “outlook,” that is, an epistemic revolution, or as he put it in 1942 a “revolution in mental health”—a revolution of seeing and experiencing the world that had the structurating power of the industrial revolution. The goal of world history was to re-order the sense of space and time in the present world. World history was the scientific tool to initiate an epistemic revolution.
In 1945, Hodgson fiercely insisted that “THERE IS NO ORIENT.” The fiction of an orient, he wrote, is part of a vast deception of the western mind that had permeated all academic disciplines as well the public, the political and the religious mind. It had infected world history, which did not deserve its name (“because the books are essentially still only histories of the West”), geography, “oriental” studies, cultural values (literature and art), world politics and (Christian) religion. However, the path from the anti-orientalist insight to a post-Western practice in (world-) history was a long and winded one and remained ultimately incomplete. It was soon overlaid by another anti-Orientalism that made him both precious and an outsider in his field of the history of Islam. He rejected the Arabism of his teachers and their overwhelming interest in Sunni Islam and, hence, their focus on the Near East in favor of sectarian strands of Islam, Shi’a Islam and Sufism, and pleaded for an east-ward orientation of Islamic Studies with a focus on Persia and Northern India. He also ran into fierce resistance for his emphasis of a merchant and missionary based Islam as opposed to an imperial, court-based Islam. Hodgson’s reorientation of Islamic Studies was a never quite resolved struggle, although it was articulated explicitly enough in The Venture of Islam. In part, this was a matter Hodgson’s own “conventionalization” of his grand history and in part it was due to the mainstream reading Hodgson, as if he were one of their own. However, it was also a matter of the difficulty of putting presupposition, even if eventually well-reasoned, into practice—and a practice, moreover, that his students and his audience accepted. What is true, though beyond the scope of this essay, for the history of Islam, is even truer for world history. How do you change a western “world outlook” without looking like Don Quixotte fighting windmills? And what kind of world history could this possibly be?
Young Hodgson started out with challenging the visual representations of the world. In this respect he was entirely part of the Zeitgeist, though he knew very little of it. The war of empires in Europe and East Asia and the subsequent globalization of the war with the German attack of the Soviet Union and the American entry into the war, had unleashed an avalanche of new thinking and, above all, of map-making to grasp this new reality. Hodgson ran into momentarily opened doors, when he insisted, starting with his 1944 essay, that the Mercator projection had to go, because it radically distorted the perception of the world. He thought of the Mercator projection as “spiritual poison”. While he had no alternative to offer, he knew that revising Mercator entailed more than redrawing a map. Because the projection was so deeply engrained in the (western and westernized) world picture, it would take a multi-disciplinary effort of geographers, social scientists, historians and humanists to develop (and defend) a globally agreed upon projection and it then would still take Madison Avenue types (advertisement) to sell it. A global world needed a more “realistic” map, and Hodgson knew that changing the prevailing, highly unrealistic projection meant to alter mental orientations and life-experience. The veracity of this insight is demonstrated by the fact that the very idea was still considered news-worthy enough to be published posthumously in the 1969 UNESCO Courier. And for all it is worth, the Mercator projection still dominates the geographic imagination.
The general argument about the necessity of changing “world outlook” was published in 1944 and has the byline “Camp Elkton.” It develops a practical guide for provincializing Europe, advising Quaker teachers of Social Studies to start with changing words and phrases, which even if used with critical intent left the wrong impression. Thus, it was wrong to elevate the European peninsula into a continent, if the same was not done for India as well. It was wrong to juxtapose East and West as complimentary halves of world civilization, because for one there was much more East than West and for another the East was not a single entity, but plural civilizations. Most importantly, it was wrong to say that Europe was at the center stage of history, not only because the majority of people lived east of the Indus, but because most of world history happened there. “It is more reasonable to say that Europe ‘was isolated from the main stream of history’ than to say that India was.” His particular ire was directed against the Roman Empire as the center of the world (which finds an intriguing parallel in his downgrading of the British Empire in his later writing). “Stop talking” about the “known world,” because it means Europe; “stop talking” about Rome’s being “mistress of the civilized world”; “stop talking” about the fall of the Roman Empire, if only the Western provinces collapsed; stop talking about “dark ages” when there was light in Alexandria, Constantinople, and Baghdad not to speak of India and China. We see here the inchoate sense of another (world) history and a potential other periodization forming, but although he had dabbled in world history, even put together a syllabus, he had no conception (yet) what kind of history that might be. Then again, he had just finished his BA and was an internee in Oregon.
Hodgson would continue throughout his life with his kind of didactic politics of image and language, admonishing all kinds of groups and churches to re-orient their outlook in order to be better able to orient themselves in the world. With great brio, he also engaged in a lengthy correspondence with the national Esperanto organization to change the spelling and phonetics of Esperanto in order to accommodate non-European usage. In the same vein, he had some rather heated altercations with fellow Arab teachers, because he thought that Arab grammar was made unnecessarily difficult due to the baggage of its (western) grammarians. In each of these cases he spelled out alternatives in great detail, but it was like fighting windmills.
The “westward distortion of history” had two further consequences that touch more immediately on the question, if not of periodization per se, of the “chronologics” of history. Hodgson was early on fascinated by the multiple chronologies of the world’s civilizations. A lot of effort went into putting together chronologies, and it is not by chance that already in 1943 there is a first reference to the History of the Prophets and Kings of the Persian scholar (Muhammad Ibn Jarir) al-Tabari. That is, Hodgson was in many ways an annalist, a recorder of great deeds, at heart. The chronologies we see later-on in The Venture of Islam are very much present already in his earliest world historical efforts. But so is his fury against the “impudence” of unthinking attempts to foreshorten distinct chronologies or, worse, to subordinate or merge them into a western mainstream. Being an annalist at heart, the question of periodization did not come up initially, except implicitly in claiming that each civilization, empire, culture or locality ran its own course. And since he learned world history less from the world historians of the time, like Toynbee, he was not overly influenced by their schemas of world historical development, which later-on he came to reject. Annals or time-lines provided a degree of separation from models of world historical development.
This annalist proclivity, however, neither made good world or, for that matter, Islamic history nor did it live up to challenging “the westward distortion of history,” if the annalist used the Christian calendar as a measure. Hence, it should not surprise that Hodgson experimented with replacing the Julian and Gregorian calendars as a measure of time. But rather than settle with merely replacing nomenclature (BC/BCE), he wanted the impossible; that is, erase the year zero and develop an entirely new “stereoscopic numerical system” in its stead, which appears to be a purist version of what would become the astronomical year numbering. The details of this scheme are difficult to fathom. But the intent is clear. As annalist of world history, he hoped to develop a post-western, global time-scale. The question then was what scale it would be. That is, should it be a decimal scale or should it be a scale of dozens (set of twelves)? What pivot should be used? Should it be a human, anthropocentric or, more narrowly, a civilization scale (using the advent of agriculture and citied, literate society as a point of departure)? Or should it be a natural history scale? Nothing came of this endeavor. Hodgson eventually settled with the Common Era notation. But his exertions go to prove that his quest to undo the “western outlook” was thorough and comprehensive.
Altogether, the invention of a new time-scale remained a minor preoccupation. He had other, far more relevant and life-long obsessions. While mapping annalist outlines for a potential world history, he was not at all certain whether History was the solution for overcoming the westward distortion of outlook and whether History Writing was the proper medium for weaving together the world’s pasts for a global age. This was not just a matter of the appropriateness of the chronological schemas for world history or, as it were, a matter of periodization. Much as he distrusted world-historical chronologics such as the one offered by Toynbee, he distrusted even more the appropriateness of periodization. But rather than offering just one possible alternative, he offered two.
His first option was to abandon chronological history altogether. He wondered, if world history and certainly world history in a global age should be a time-based narrative. Wasn’t the very insistence on a historical chronologic a westward distortion? Was “History” the right genre for world history? Most of the world had not written “world history” to explain the history of the world. Well, Graduate School sobered him up and the academic environment, into which he grew reluctantly, did the rest. But his “dream” remained writing a very different, untimely and timeless story of the world altogether.
We get frequent glimpses of this dream in his papers, which grew and changed between 1945 and 1968. Hodgson never gave up on it. Some of it is quite unbearable and none of it ever matured into a publishable piece of work. He did not even show them to his mentors and friends, John U. Nef and Gustave von Grunebaum, though judging from the papers of von Grunebaum Hodgson might have found an open ear. But Hodgson’s dream of a narrative of the world beyond chronologics do matter in our context, even though Hodgson himself realized that he strove for the impossible. Time-based world history—Hogdson of course would link the notion of time to the Mazdean (Zoroastrian) tradition and thought of the Greeks in this eastern “light”—was one answer, but he was firmly convinced that what was ultimately needed was a history beyond time and to the very end dreamed of writing his “Vision of the Valley” as he came to call it.
While avidly pursuing his more conventional world-history projects—among other things the above-mentioned history-based “Handbook for World Citizenship” as well as a book on the scourge of Orientalism—he also penned what he called Puranas, imitating the substance and the verse structure of the Sanskrit originals and transposing these ancient texts into a creation history of the world’s civilizations. This was a world history of sorts, and the fact that it was written in verse signaled the elevated nature of the text (as well as a juvenile fascination with the sublime). At its core it was a history of earth and heaven from creation to the present, implying its potential endings; a visionary and prophetic history that presented the genealogies, the lives and the works of eminent civilization bearers—foremost prophets, less so kings—from the Eurasian-African hemisphere. “The most impressive genre in visional writing is the world myth.” Where Hodgson got all of this from is unclear, but his reasoning, while for the most part implicit, is transparent. A new world, a global world and a world at war, needed world history as a foundation—and this foundation was to be made off the texts and textures of the world’s traditions. The in-gathering of the world’s traditions was the purpose of world history, whose goal was the founding of a global world, in which these traditions were to be sublated—preserved and yet transcended in the (non-violent) mobilization for a global age—against the oppressive reality of the prevailing western “outlook.”
This is not the place to pursue the matter any further. But two points are worth making. First, chronological histories and prose narratives were the Western standard for writing history and world history at that, and it is only consistent, if provincializing Europe would entail considering other genres of writing, narrating and experiencing world history. In this sense, the turn against chronological prose history was part and parcel of Hodgson’s anti-orientalist project. That this effort may well be considered Orientalizing in its own right and, perhaps more to the point, sacrilegious, is no small matter, but this debate, which would have to explore Hodgson’s religiosity and his sense of the sacred, will have to wait for another occasion. What matters is the imaginative drive that saw the time- and space-bound nature of prose-chronological narratives. Second, for Hodgson mythhistory, wisdom literature and epic poetry were viable, if untimely alternative genres for world history. He recognized that the Zeitgeist in general and academic thought in particular were not amenable to time-transcendent genre-convention. But contrary to his colleague William McNeill, whose anti-Mythhistory looks suspiciously like a response to Hodgson, he firmly believed that these histories, while in abeyance in his time, would by necessity return. It would not have to be Puranas, but it would have to be foundational thought for a global world. At the end of his life, he was ready to settle for a world history of religion, which he prepared with the Sanskrit scholar and philosopher of religion, Charles H. Long, who would emerge as the pre-eminent scholar of African-American religion.
If we were to pursue this matter beyond the point of demonstrating that for Hodgson there is time-bound and, hence, human and more particularly civilizational history and time-less or time-transcendent and, hence, cosmic (and ultimately divine) history, we would end with what seemed to his colleagues and students utterly alien and mystifying territory. Among Hodgson’s last texts is an (unpublished) lecture on “The Historian as Theologian,” in which he argued that world history, in order to amount to anything at all, would have to be kerygmatic (prophetic) history. Needless to say, as an accomplished historian of Islam he was keenly aware of the tradition he was mobilizing. Sacrilege could once again have been the charge against him. But the lecture was a disaster for quite different reasons. In 1967 no one in the audience had any idea what he was talking about, and this has not changed much. Nonetheless, what Hodgson argued is that to live up to the challenges of world history in a global age, the historian had to develop a foundational story or stories that brought to bear the world’s traditions on the present and the future. The western tradition of chronological narratives, in contrast to more poetic and/or time-transcending narratives, were ill-equipped for the task. Still, the role of History was never more crucial than in the contemporary world, because in an ever more “cosmopolitan” world, in which cultural “commitments” (identities) were shaped less by tradition than in direct interaction, the historians became the custodians and the (kerygmatic, because future-oriented) articulators of all the worlds traditions. The historians task was to retain the (multiplicity of) lifelines between the past and the future in a contemporary global world, in which “life-orientations” collided. While generally distrustful of philosophies of progress, Hodgson had read his Hegel well. The issue for world history was the “sublation” of past histories rather than the modern, western separation from the past. Suffice it to say, his youthful passion for the sublime had become a programmatic call for the re-orientation of history in a global age.
Chronology and, with it, questions concerning the logic of historical time surfaced with Hodgson turning to world history proper, when, in 1946, he wrote up a now-lost manuscript, which became his entry ticket into Graduate School, the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago. While this project was subsequently overlaid by his focus on Islamic history, he pursued it throughout his career with various degrees of intensity. The relationship between Hodgson’s history of Islamicate societies and his world history endeavors is best captured by a recollection of Hodgson’s assistant at the time, Reuben Smith, about Hodgson fretting that The Venture of Islam could not be understood without reference to “The Unity of World History.”
This latter manuscript was completed as draft sometime before Hodgson’s untimely death in summer of 1968. It incorporates material that dates back to 1946, but in the main the manuscript elaborates his programmatic 1954 essay “Hemispheric Inter-regional History as an Approach to World History.” Unsurprisingly, it also falls back on his work on Islam, though less on his magisterial survey, than on his notes and miscellaneous writing on Islam in World History. In passing, Hodgson refers to the text as an “essay,” and it is in fact a lengthy prolegomenon to world history, in which Hodgson defends his approach, though not his decision to make what he calls quite conventionally the Middles Ages the temporal pivot of his explorations. It is not clear whether the reference to the Middle Ages as period is simply a conversational convenience – he also speaks of “classic antiquity”—or a not so subtle joke, because his middle age is that of a medieval Eurasia, which takes place in the Middle East and North India as well as the Far East rather than in the Occident. It is the middle of an age, the Afro-Eurasian Oikoumenic Age (my words -MG), which is unlike any periodization in any part of the world. It is, however, a periodization that he considers appropriate for world history.
The manuscript is divided into four parts that convey an overall idea of his intent. He starts out with a discussion of “The World as an Interregional Field: Problems in Envisaging Mankind as a Historical Whole,” in which he defends his focus on the Eurasian Oikoumene. It is followed by a second and main part on “The Common History of Medieval Eurasia: In What Ways Ancient and Medieval Times Form a Historical Unity,” which explores the rise and fall as well as the internal dynamics of the Eurasian Oikoumene. The third part on “The Division of the Modern World” concerns the transformation—Hodgson thinks of it as literally a “mutation”—“from oikoumenic to global times.” The fourth part of the manuscript is published, minus two sub-chapters and its programmatic title “The Unity of Historical Study: Interregional Studies as the Core of Historical Studies,” in which Hogdson argues that to be relevant in the modern world the discipline of history had to reinvent itself as the study of interregional contacts and contexts. Hodgson had come a long way since 1942, when he had penned his first world history syllabus as a rebellious undergraduate in recognition of the globality of war. But if anything, he had become—and made himself into—more of an outsider in his own chosen field of world history. Typically, he accepted Pirenne as a European world historian, but not Braudel. His correspondents were mainly in anthropology and in religious studies. Still, he was set to write his world history, when he suddenly and dramatically collapsed and died.
The theme of this world history (and the reason, too, for it holding the key to Hodgson’s history of Islamic civilization) is most concisely set down in his application to the Guggenheim Foundation, in March 1968, for a fellowship supporting his world-history endeavor, now that he had finally finished The Venture of Islam.
I plan to do a study of the unity of world history […]. More than with abstract principles of historical development or with parallelisms among the great civilizations or even with their mutual influences (though on these matters I shall have something to say), I will be concerned with the developing interregional configuration of interrelated events, especially in the last three millennia in the eastern hemisphere: that is, how developments within the several major cultural regions, given the particular position and role of those regions in the Afro-Eurasian historical complex at any given time, affected overall Afro-Eurasian and world historical circumstances; and how these overall circumstances in turn affected the development of the several regions […] [T]he heart of my study will be the Afro-Eurasian historical configuration of pre-Modern citied time among the primary regions of the Afro-Eurasian citied zone: the zone of citied life from Europe to China. A constitutive theme will be the common level of social power that held, at any given time, among the primary regions of the Afro-Eurasian citied zone; how these regions were always roughly on par with each other despite the persistent and substantial rise of that common level over the millennia. In this light then I will assess the role of the various frontier areas, north, south, east and west (such as the Occident proper was for most of the period.)
Hodgson always understood that this was a narrow-gauge world history, and not quite the study of humankind he advertised in the title of his text. Human history was far grander than world history, and natural history happened on a yet grander scale than human history. Hodgson was fascinated by the possibility of these histories, but thought of them as beyond his reach. They were also beyond the conceptual scope of what he considered the unity of world history. For world history to happen it needed—chronology. Not the one invented by historians, but the invention of time and narrative, and the latter he saw, quite conventionally, as a product of urban, lettered societies. He had a distinctly textual bias and privileged sacred texts above all. Right or wrong is not to be debated here. What matters is a first major choice for Hodgson as a world historian. “The whole history of urban literate peoples in the Eastern hemisphere, down at last till modern times, appears as a single episode within a much vaster [human] context, which is to be thought of as equally historical and episodic.” World history as history of (connected) urban, lettered societies—the history of what was and is commonly called “civilizations”—made up a single chronotope in the context of an equally “historical” (because “episodic”), but much grander, human space/time.
Obviously, Hodgson refers here to the distinction between hunters and gatherers and agricultural and urban societies, which has lately resurfaced as a major theme in the debate over evolutionary history. Hodgson chose to emphasize the invention of chronological technologies, including narratives of time, as a key feature. In order for a society entering world history—I actual fact: the age of world history—it needed techniques of space/time and narrative, narrated time or “chronologics,” as a prerequisite for transmitting and sharing them. Modern world historians, in other words, spin out a thread that reaches deep into the past. They share into a technique and were distant members of a chronotope, in which chronologics attained central importance. Present students of world history and their distant subjects shared a common temporal bond. Counting and narrating time was “the event” or, rather, the cultural invention that made world history back then and world historians now.
If the above was rather randomly asserted, a second step in defining the world historical chronotope mattered crucially for Hodgson’s world historical project. World history proper took shape with the emergence of shared (because transmissible) space and time of Afro-Eurasian citied and lettered societies. The emergence and the act(s) of stitching together of an African-Eurasian Oikoumene gave definite shape, that is space, time and narrative, to the world of world history. Geography separated; human activity—creativity and connectivity—integrated. Space contained time (with differing chronologies from locality to locality and region to region), but grand narratives leaped across spatial barrier imposed by land and sea.
The choice of the Eurasian Oikoumene as the space and, as we shall see, the time for world history dates back into the 1940s and its tied to Hodgson’s fight against “western distortion.” The term stuck, though was repeatedly revised, after Hodgson had read A.L. Kroeber’s Ancient Oikoumene. The context for it was Hodgson’s initial lack of knowledge and, subsequently, his rejection of the learned world history of his time. We already discovered that Hodgson learned about world history not from books, but “invented” it in response to the world-political situation. It was the quirk of an undergraduate, we must presume, that he picked up al-Tabari (because a friendly librarian mentioned him and he was on the shelf) whereas he bypassed Toynbee in 1943 (because he could not be found). But none of this explains Hodgson’s rejection of Toynbee, once he had studied him, and his growing ire, bordering on apoplexy, directed at Toynbee’s world history. The sensible and not so sensible reasons for this rejection need not concern us. What matters is that his rage against Toynbee is not at all singular. Hodgson rejected the available meta-narratives of world history, civilizational history and philosophical history, the search for some universal “scheme into which all history will fit—whether in terms of progress or of cycles or a master-race or of a revelation.” With growing knowledge of the literature he was ever more convinced that the typical conventions of past occidental world historians (Toynbee, Spengler, Hegel and Marx figured prominently) were not only caught in an orientalist outlook, but missed the decisive element that defined world history. The world of world history proper was the common space and time of Afro-Eurasian societies.
It was easy enough for Hodgson, though not necessarily for his colleagues in history, to acknowledge the work especially of anthropologists commonly associated with the diffusionist school, who, by way of insisting on multiple centers of diffusion, had made possible the “recognition of the independent historical dignity of other societies than the Occidental.” But for Hodgson, separateness made sense only in the connection of overall unity of space and time. Hodgson’s main contention was that Eurasia-Africa is best understood as a single zone of exchange of literate urban civilizations. Exchange would ultimately transport any kind of innovation (mechanical, spiritual, social or economic) across the entire space. Hodgson pointed to the “trade routes of the Southern Seas” [Indian Ocean] and the “trade-routes of Mid-Eurasia” as “highway[s] for the passage of religious and political ideas as well as goods.” For Hodgson this was known history that lend itself to a “historical world radically different from the Occidental image.” If William McNeill discovered this years later, it was his problem. Hodgson’s problems started when he asked what to do with all this connectivity.
His solution, articulated first in his 1954 essay in the Journal for World History and more informally in a 1957 faculty seminar that left the assembled faculty perplexed, was and is confounding. Regional civilizational clusters were connected in a history of separate, but interconnected cohabitation; so far so good. But regional/civilizational developments were also inseparable from the overall development of the entire hemisphere. It is this overall development of the Oikoumene at large that concerned Hodgson, because it is in this overall development that the evolutionary chronologics of world history could be found. The “eastern hemisphere,” although divided into separate spheres of settled urban and literate habitation, was part of a single Afro-Eurasian “configuration.” It is this configuration that provided the chronotope for world history as the history of “the Eurasian Oikoumene as a Historical Complex”.
[T]he major Eurasian civilizations can be considered as regions within a single historical configuration. Seen from this angle, the societies studied in the civilizational courses and by the specialists in the various areas tend to lose their independent, self-contained characters and become, rather, interrelated and interdependent part of a single, inclusive region [Eurasian-African zone] with an overall pattern of historical development.
Citied and lettered societies were not connected in the historian’s process of abstraction. They were not “a multiplicity of essentially discrete societies” at the mercy of historians who squeezed them into a world historical schema. They were connected, but connectivity as such (which was well known to Toynbee and for that matter to McNeill) was only part of the story. Rather, because of their connectedness they formed an overarching historical “configuration” or “complex.” What world history studied is
how developments within the several major cultural regions, given the particular position and role of those regions in the Afro-Eurasian historical complex at any given time, affected overall Afro-Eurasian and world-historical circumstances; and how these circumstances in turn affected the development of the several regions.
This became the core contention of Hodgson’s world history and the key presupposition for his thinking about world historical time and world historical narrative. Hodgson considered himself as a contextualist—and less convincingly as a structuralist—rather than as a diffusionist.
World history was interstitial history. Its specific task was “to trace those developments which proceeded on a stage too wide for any more local history to cover other than fragmentarily, and which determined the cultural possibilities of mankind as a whole, or the greater part of it.” That is: whatever transcends any one local or regional frame and affects the “whole” world and, therefore, can only be captured incompletely with reference to any one locale, is the subject of world history. The spread of military technology is one such example; typically, it had its origins in a specific place and time, itself conditioned by the wider world, but genuine innovations were, if not imposed, adapted and appropriated across the entire space. The act of invention (pride of place) and the acts of adaptation (the less cherished cultural labor of mimesis), needed to be studied carefully and in detail, but world history as such concerned itself with the effects of invention and adaptation that moved the world historical “configuration” in its entirety onto a new plain. Hence, the genuine subject of “interregional aspects of historical study” as world history was neither the succession of civilizations or of societies and empires within civilizations nor really of connections as such, but the regime of conscious and unconscious influences, the “cultural climate” that connected them all.
Hodgson thus created a capacious, common space/time—the Eurasian-North-African oikoumene that reached from the Atlantic Far West to the Pacific Far East. If any sea, the Indian Ocean was the interior lake of this geographic expanse, which pettered out towards the North and the South. This was obviously less than a human history or, for that matter, less than a history of the entire world. The Americas, like Inner Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, as well as the forests and swamps of Europe, were peripheralized in this early essay, not barbaric for sure, but marginal to the business of the world. This history escaped all known forms of periodization, certainly any kind of Occidential master scheme, be it of the world historical variety (linear progress vs. cyclical development) or the typical European sequence of ancient, medieval and modern times. Still, time was of the essence.
The early valley civilizations formed one of these constellations or cultural climates. Hodgson thought of them as pre-oikoumenic and dealt with them only cursorily. The rise of “social power” combined with a new type of scriptural religion of personal salvation formed another one. This was the dawn of what would become the oikoumenic age that stretched over more than two millennia. If Hodgson focused on “medieval Eurasia,” he referred to one historical moment within this age, which came to be defined by an expansive Islam and the proliferation of Islamicate societies and in which the European cultural zone hovered at the margins. This oikoumenic age had its ups and downs, typically articulated in shifts in spatial focus of configuration-defining social and cultural activity. Europe’s late rise from Eurasian frontier to main player occurred well within this age. Expansion, which moved Europe from the Eurasian frontier into the role of a main actor, was a “deviation” as much as it outflanked the Eurasian space. But it happened in the context of other such expansion within the oikoumenic framework, which all pushed at the internal and external frontiers of the common space.
There was a chronologic to the internal development of the African-Eurasian oikoumene, but Hodgson abandoned all markers of periodization. That is, each region went through multiple cycles of creative foundation, efflorescence and ossification and decay, but the Eurasian zone followed a different logic. A world historian would above all be concerned with the opening and closing of channels of communication between regions. Hodgson did not provide much of an indication of where this would lead in terms of periodization, but some of his suggestions are tantalizing. Thus, he emphasized the role of “receptors” in interregional studies—such as the decline of Christianity in the Near East for the entire western part of the Eurasian hemisphere or, for that matter, the decline of Buddhism for Indian-Chinese relations. The opening and closing of space in other words defined time. Space was of the essence for chronology, which is why he fiercely opposed the notion of the end of the Roman Empire and antiquity in a world in which Constantinople and eastern Christianity still ruled supreme. Disruption was perhaps of even more central importance, which is why he put unique emphasis on the bronze age migrations, the Hellenistic expansion, and the Mongol conquests—and ultimately the western disruption—as epochal markers.
If these disruptions reset spatial relations of regions, they also pointed to a second grand scheme—the cumulative “metamorphosis” of the entire oikoumene. It is reminder of the epic vision of history, if Hodgson dwelled on the long-term reversal of fortunes of settled and nomadic peoples as one of these metamorphoses within oikoumenic times. But he was more impressed by how, cumulatively, knowledge and techné grew across the entire hemisphere, and while he acknowledged the exploitation of such advantage for empire, he was far more taken by the cumulative growth of complexity in the disposition of the entire hemisphere. He suggested that there were watersheds, but left them to the imagination of the reader. Not quite, because important as the invention of paper and gunpowder were, the crucially relevant epochal marker was “the general development of large-scale systems of personal orientation, the historic religions,” which, as was the case with Islam as the last such religion “transcended the purely personal level and carried with it direct social initiative, moving towards the establishment of a total society on an unprecedented, hemisphere-wide level.”
Implicitly this comment suggests that ultimately Hodgson was less concerned with ever fluid “periods” of history, but with the grand traversals of time. We are on firmer ground with Hodgson, when he turns to the axial time and the Axial Age—or rather the two Axial Ages that shaped the chronologics of world history.
It is only in consideration of the end of the millennial history of the Eurasian oikoumene that we realize what Hodgson did, when he finally turned to the rise of the West. First, he put this rise unusually late in comparison with the prevailing world historical literature. Second, he identified the combination of outward expansion and inward technicalization as the driving force for the explosive rise of the West. Even Hodgsonians are typically quite disdainful about this turn. Hodgson took over, so it is argued, techno-phobe notion of a technicalized world wholesale from John U. Nef. The idea of a dual (industrial and political) revolution of the “generation of 1789” (Hodgson) was better reasoned and articulated by the Eric Hobsbawm. But all of this obfuscates the main argument. The northwest-European formation of a technicalized world initiates not just another period of world history—perhaps of a merely temporary western domination. It set in motion of wholesale revolution of time and space as well as of lifeworlds (life-orientations such as provided by the axial religions). In fact, he suggested—without much evidence—that the evolution of traits of a modern world were present in in all the regions of the world; they were the product of the growing complexity of the Eurasian cultural climate. But the dual revolution set in motion a far more radical course. The Western revolution initiated not a spatial shift or yet another life-world adjustment in an oikoumenic age, but a wholesale mutation, a permanent alteration of the very foundation of lifeworlds. History moved from “oikoumenic to global times.”
Hodgson’s epochal definition of the global age remained tentative and inconclusive, but was no less bold for that. It came in two parts. The first one had to do with the difference between the world historical role of Islam and the West, which he approached in a much revised and contested essay on Islam and Christianity. Pivotal as Islamicate societies were in shaping the “general disposition of the [Afro-Eurasian] hemisphere”, the power of Islam over the entire sphere was limited. Islam shaped the disposition of the entire oikoumene perhaps more than any other civilization, but it did not overpower the world. By contrast the world historical role of the Far West drastically reconfigured the architecture of the oikoumenic “configuration.” It was the equivalent of a genetic “transmutation.” It gave the entire configuration a new material Gestalt and physical presence, which he called “global constellation.” Hodgson was certain that this constellation no longer was “home.” But he now also wondered: “Is the [technical transmutation] so much more massive that the place of man in nature must be rethought?”
Hodgson worked out none of the implications of the western “transmutation,” but the basic argument is worth our attention. Hodgson argued that “the great divergence” between the Western world and Eurasian civilizations could not be explained genealogically, even though the West had taken on the role of world historical incubator that others had taken on before. The Western difference consisted rather in the ability to control “global” connectivity for a brief historical moment, which necessarily had to vanish. In a rising Western world—as opposed to the preceding Islamic and the concurrent Chinese worlds—connectivity outraced the time necessary for self-transformation. Hodgson thought that this moment had ended with the rise of oppressed people since the Second World War. He would not at all have been astounded by the post-1970s transformation of the world. Connectivity is power; it is, if not the source, the reality of the “great divergence.”
The wider consequence of the rise of the Far West was that the concepts of “oikoumenic configuration” and “global constellation” articulated two radically different modes of “world order.” In contrast to oikoumenic times, the “general disposition” of the “global constellation” entailed that emulation, adaptation, creative disruption and cultural innovation occurred within a unified world. In 1952, just after having finished his year at Aligarh Muslim University, he concluded: “Mankind for the first time is ready for a global civilization—and ready to appreciate effectively all past civilizations.” Globality, in short, was the necessary condition for a unified world, which was becoming, Hodgson insisted, a post-occidental world, in which civilizational difference could and would be articulated. He left no doubt that this was a moment of epistemic rupture. It was also the moment for world history.
 Marshall G. S. Hodgson, Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization, 3 vols. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974).
 Marshall G. S. Hodgson, Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam, and World History, ed. Edmund Burke III (Cambridge, UK, and New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1993).
 “Unity of World History,” 388 pp., draft, undated, Marshall G. S. Hodgson Papers, Box 14, folders 9–12. Special Collections Research Center, University of Chicago Library [henceforth MGSHP Box #, folder #].
 Marshall G. S. Hodgson, “Hemispheric Inter-regional History as an Approach to World History,” Cahiers d’histoire mondiale 1 (1954): 715–23, here 21–22. See also “World History: Toning Down its ‘Western Accent’,” UNESCO Courier 7, no. 7 (1954): 24–25.
 Edward W. Said, Orientalism (New York: Pantheon Books, 1978); Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2000).
 Marshall Hodgson, “World History and a World Outlook,” The Social Studies [Washington, D.C.] 35 (1944): 297–301; Hodgson, “Hemispheric Inter-regional History as an Approach to World History,” 715–23 (see note 4).
 “The Interrelations of Societies in History,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 5, no. 2 (1963): 227–50.
 Outline for a “Handbook of World Citizenship”, 16–26 January 1945, MGSHP Box 15, folder 6 (see note 3).
 “On Discipline, Action and the Immediate Future,” 24 December 1942. “I believe that such actions as Gandhi’s is to be looked to as fundamental in the pattern of the next 500 years.” MGSHP Box 11, folder 1 (see note 3).
 Hodgson, “World History and a World Outlook,” 299 (see note 6).
 “Nemesis for Americans,” 7 October 1950. MGSHP Box 11, folder 1 (see note 3).
 Note, 22 December 1942: “The next revolution is a revolution in mental health fully comparable to the industrial revolution.” MGSHP Box 11, folder 1 (see note 3).
 “Outline for a book combatting Western provincialism,” 23 June 1945. MGSHP Box 15, folder 6 (see note 3). See also Edmund Burke, “There is no Orient: Hodgson and Said,” Review of Middle East Studies 44, no. 1 (2010): 13–18.
 “‘On Islamists forgetting eastern Islam’, To do when I have acquired more authority,” MGSHP Box 15, folder 6 (see note 3).
 See letter to Charles and Hanna Gray concerning the AHR rejection of “Islam in World History” by an irate Arabist, 30 June 1967. MGSHP Box 15, folder 5 (see note 3).
 Tom Harper, ed., Maps and the 20th Century : Drawing the Line (London: The British Library, 2016).
 David Kuchenbuch, “Arno Peters, die Peterskarte und die Synchronoptische Weltgeschichte: Mediale Repräsentation der ‘Einen Welt’ 1950–1990,” Zeitschrift für Geschichtswissenschaft 59, no. 10 (2011): 824–46.
 Letter to Wilfred Cantwell Smith, 7 September 1963. MGSHP Box 10, folder 9 (see note 3).
 Projects, handwritten [in Frankfurt], 18 August 1952. A more academically focused Mercator project is outlined in a handwritten note “To write,” 31 October 1954, MGSH Box 15, folder 6 (see note 3).
 Marshall G. S. Hodgson, “In the Centre of the Map,” UNESCO Courier 22, no. 8/9 (1969): 54–55.
 Hodgson, “World History and a World Outlook” (see note 6).
 Hodgson, “World History and a World Outlook,” 301 (see note 6).
 Hodgson, “World History and a World Outlook” (see note 6).
 “Letter to George” [instructor at the University of Colorado]: Outlines of World History, 6 June 1942, MGSHP Box 6, folder 21 (see note 3).
 Notes on Esperanto, 1961–1967, MGSHP Box 10, folder 11 (see note 3).
 Notes and correspondence on teaching Arabic, 1960s, MGSHP Box 10, folder 18 (see note 3).
 “Books read in 1943”, MGSHP Box 9, folder 9 (see note 3).
 On Toynbee (1950), MGSHP Box 7, folder 1 (see note 3).
 (March 1967). See MGSHP Box 10, folder 22 (see note 3).
 MGSHP Box 10, folder 22 (see note 3).
 On “dozening”. MGSHP Box 10, folder 15 (see note 3).
 “The Valley of Vision—my ‘dream book’; […] this is the big work planned since 1944; a visional interpretation of historical humanity […]”. Statement of my publications as foreseen as of now, 16 February 1968. University of Chicago, Committee on Social Thought. Records, Box 5, folder 4. Special Collections Research Center. University of Chicago Library.
 See Box 14, Epics, Gustav E. von Grunebaum Papers. Department of Special Collections. University of California, Los Angeles, Library.
 “Notes on Dreambook ‘Valley of Vision’,” MGSHP Box 10, folder 7 (see note 3).
 “Epic History and Verse, 1944–1945,” MGSHP Box 9, folder 12 (see note 3).
 Handwritten note, n. D. MGSHP Box 10, folder 12 (see note 3).
 “World History and Epic History,” MGSHP Box 6, folder 21 (see note 3).
 William H. McNeill, Mythistory and Other Essays (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986).
 Jennifer Reid, ed., Religion and Global Culture: New Terrain in the Study of Religion and the Work of Charles H. Long (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2003).
 “The Historian as Theologian,” 50 pp., mimeographed transcript of a lecture (1967). MGSHP Box 1, folder 18 (see note 3).
 Hodgson uses word-concepts like “cosmopolitan” or “commitment” as technical terms that differ from the common-sense usage. There is in other words a philosophy behind these words. The reference is to “The Historian as Theologian,” 49–50 (see note 40).
 Reinhart Koselleck, Vergangene Zukunft: zur Semantik geschichtlicher Zeiten (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979).
 Reuben Smith, e-mail message, 16 February 2017. The draft manuscript can be found in MGSHP Box 14, folders 9–12 (see note 3).
 Marshall G. S. Hodgson, “Islam in World History,” UNESCO Courier 11, no. 2 (1958): 18–21; “Modernity and the Islamic Heritage,” Islamic Studies [Karachi] 1, no. 2 (1962): 89–129; “The Role of Islam in World History,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 1, no. 2 (1970): 99–123.
 It is part III in Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam, and World History (see note 2).
 On Pirenne: MGSHP Box 7, folder 10 (see note 3). On Braudel: MGSHP Box 7, folder 12 (see note 3).
 My italics. Fellowship Application to the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation. Received March 27, 1968. Courtesy of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation. The citations are on pp. 1 and 3 of the project description. The connection to the (lost) 1946 manuscript is established in Hodgson’s personal narrative.
 “Requirements for and outlines of a History of the Human World,” 3 July 1955. MGSHP Box 6, folder 17 (see note 3). See also “Notes on role of historical and critical studies, environmental studies,” n. D. MGSHP Box 10, folder 19 (see note 3).
 “History of the Human World,” 1954–1955. MGSHP Box 6 folder 17 (see note 3 and 48).
 MS. “The Unity of the World.” Part A. MGSHP Box 14, folder 9, here page 25 (see note 3).
 See, for example, Yuval N. Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind (London: Harvill Secker, 2014); James C. Scott, Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States, Yale agrarian studies. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2017).
 Alfred Louis Kroeber, The Ancient Oikoumenê as an Historic Culture Aggregate, Huxley memorial lecture for 1945 (London: Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, 1945).
 University of Chicago Library bibliographic notes, June 1943. MGSHP Box 6, folder 21 (see note 3).
 “The Unity of the World.” Part D. MGSHP Box 14, folder 12 (see note 3). The section on Toynbee is omitted from the reprint of this last, conceptual and methodological part of Hogdson “Unity of the World” in Hodgson, Rethinking World History: Essays on Europe, Islam, and World History, part III (see note 2).
 “Unity of the World.” Part A, 13–23 (see note 3 and 50).
 “Unity of World History.” Part A, 25 (see note 3 and 50).
 “Unity of World History.” Part A, 26 (see note 3 and 50).
 William H. McNeill, “In Defence of World History: The Prothero Lectures,” Transactions of the Royal Historical Society, Fifth Series, no. 32 (1982): 75–89.
 Chapter II: The Eurasian Oikoumene as a Historical Complex: Its Evolution as Heart of the Interregional Historical Framework,” Ibid., 32–69.
 “Invitation to a Seminar on Problems in the Development and Interrelations of the Eurasian Civilizations,” fall term 1957. MGSHP Box 1, folder 3 (see note 3). William McNeill was the only member of the History Department among the participants.
 Hodgson, Guggenheim Application, Project Proposal, p. 1 (see note 47).
 “Invitation to a Seminar …” (see note 60).
 Hodgson, “Hemispheric Inter-regional History as an Approach to World History,” 718 (see note 4).
 Already in 1946: “Discussion of pre-ecumenical and post-ecumenical interregionality.” MGSHP Box 6, folder 23 (see note 3).
 Compare this with Reinhart Herzog and Reinhart Koselleck, eds., Epochenschwelle und Epochenbewusstein, Poetik und Hermeneutik (München: W. Fink, 1987).
 Hodgson, “Hemispheric Inter-regional History as an Approach to World History,” 719 (see note 4).
 “Unity of World History, Part A, 55 (see note 3 and 50). It is not unusual for a historian that he developed a more detailed periodic scale at the tail end of his text, when he moved from prolegomenon to the schema for an actual book, which is only to confirm that text, and a certain genre of text at that, impose the chronologics of periodization. “The Unity of World History, Part D. MGSHP Box 14, folder 12 (see note 3).
 Leften Stavros Stavrianos, The World since 1500: A Global History (Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1966).
 John Ulric Nef, La naissance de la civilisation industrielle et le monde contemporain, Collection Économies, sociétés, civilisations (Paris: A. Colin, 1954).
 Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Revolution, 1789–1848, 1st ed. (Cleveland: World Pub. Co., 1962).
 Hodgson had a great deal to say about this subject, which he explored using Husserl’s concept of “lifeworlds,” Edmund Husserl, Die Krisis der europäischen Wissenschaften und die transcendentale Phänomenologie: eine Einleitung in die phänomenologische Philosophie, Phénoménologie. Mélanges; ([Belgrad: s n ], 1936). While the evidence is quite fragmentary, he used it to rethink the concept of “civilization,” with which he had grown up at Chicago, but which he always resisted.
 “Unity of the World.” Part C, 234 (see note 3).
 Marshall G. S. Hodgson, “A Comparison of Islam and Christianity as Framework for Religious Life,” Diogenes 8, no. 32 (1960): 49–79. Hodgson felt rightly that “the English text was mangled in edition.” “Publications of Marshall G.S. Hodgson,” 15 March 1968. CST Box 5, folder 4. He added a lengthy introduction to correct the editorial mistreatment. A comparison of Islâm and Christianity as Frameworks for Religious Life, Reprint series (University of Chicago. Committee on Southern Asian Studies) (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1960).
 Lecture notes, April 1968 MGSH Box 10, folder 20 (see note 3).
 The most extensive comments and notes on the global condition can be found in the drafts for the 20th century chapters of the Venture of Islam, MGSHP Box 14, folder 8 (see note 3).
 Venture of Islam, MGSHP Box 14, folder 8 (see note 3).
 Kenneth Pomeranz, The Great Divergence: Europe, China, and the Making of the Modern World Economy (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2000).
 See reference of chapter draft “From Oikoumene to Global European World Order,” MGSHP Box 14, folder 13 (see note 3).
 Handwritten text on “The next civilization”, 24 July 1952, MGSHP Box 15, folder 6 (see note 3).
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