Global History Studies at Osaka University    

                                             Shigeru Akita
                         (Bulletin of Asia-Pacific Studies vol. XXII, pp.25-41. Excerpt)

Osaka University is one of the key research universities in Japan, and the Graduate School of
Letters (Humanities) has received research funds under ‘21st Century Center for Excellence’ and
‘Global Center for Excellence’ programs of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and
Technology (MEXT). The Department of World History is the hub of global history studies in Japan as
well as in Asia, and it hosted the First International Congress of the Asian Association of World
Historians (AAWH) in May 2009. The Department is conducting four global history research projects:
(1) Silk Road and Central Eurasian world history, (2) Maritime Asian history, (3) History of the
Chinese Empire, and (4) World-System from Asian perspectives.

The Asian History Section of the Department of World History at Osaka University has a longstanding
tradition of archival research in a number of languages: Turkish, Mongol, Tibetan, Manchurian, and
of course, Chinese, regarding ‘Inner’ Asia (now often called ‘Central Eurasia’). In the last two
decades, the study of Asian Maritime history focusing on the  East  and  South  China  Seas,  and  
partly  involving  researchers  from  the  Japanese  History  Major,  has  also  gained importance.
Under the influence of these two leading research groups, studies in Chinese and Japanese
histories, which are dominant in the historical discipline in Japan besides ‘Western History’, have
shifted their regional investigative focus away from the conventional ‘East Asia’ perspective
(essentially China, Korea and Japan) and towards a broader and more flexible  area  of  ‘Eastern  
Eurasia’ including  maritime  regions. As  a  result,  polygonal  collaborations  among  scholars
working  on  Central  Eurasia,  China,  Japan,  and  Maritime  Asia  (including  Southeast  Asia)  
are  developing.  Valuable methodological and analytical connections could be established between
archival research and field surveys, and between perspectives on global relationships and the
micro-analysis of local societies.

1.    Osaka University, Department of World History

Osaka University is one of the key research universities in Japan, and the Graduate School of
Letters (Humanities) has received research funds under ‘21st  Century Center for Excellence’ and
‘Global Center for Excellence’ programs of the

Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology (MEXT). The Department of World
History is the hub of global history studies in Japan as well as in Asia, and it hosted the First
International Congress of the Asian Association of World Historians (AAWH) in May 2009. The
Department is conducting four global history research projects: (1) Silk Road and Central Eurasian
world history, (2) Maritime Asian history, (3) History of the Chinese Empire, and (4) World- System
from Asian perspectives.

 The Asian History Section of the Department of World History at Osaka University has a longstanding
tradition of archival research in a number of languages: Turkish, Mongol, Tibetan, Manchurian, and
of course, Chinese, regarding ‘Inner’ Asia (now often called ‘Central Eurasia’). In the last two
decades, the study of Asian Maritime history focusing on the  East  and  South  China  Seas,  and  
partly  involving  researchers  from  the  Japanese  History  Major,  has  also  gained importance.
Under the influence of these two leading research groups, studies in Chinese and Japanese
histories, which are dominant in the historical discipline in Japan besides  ‘Western History’,
have shifted their regional investigative focus away from the conventional ‘East Asia’ perspective
(essentially China, Korea and Japan) and towards a broader and more flexible  area  of  ‘Eastern  
Eurasia’  including  maritime  regions. As  a  result,  polygonal  collaborations  among  scholars
working  on  Central  Eurasia,  China,  Japan,  and  Maritime  Asia  (including  Southeast  Asia)  
are  developing.  Valuable methodological and analytical connections could be established between
archival research and field surveys, and between perspectives on global relationships and the
micro-analysis of local societies.

 The first project group is led by Masaharu Arakawa, Dai Matsui, and Emeritus Prof. Takao Moriyasu.
Arakawa is the leader of the research group on Central Eurasian history in the ancient and middle
ages. His group founded the Society of Central Eurasian Studies (SCES) and holds three forums on
Central Eurasian Studies every year. In addition, they publish an annual journal called Studies on
the Inner Asian Languages, which covers a wide range of topics on Central Eurasian history, such as
the Silk Road and nomads, Manicheism and Sogdian, Asian merchants and the ancient Chinese Empire,
and the Mongolian Empire and globalisation. They may consider ‘proto-type’ globalisation in ancient
Central Eurasia through the formation and demise of the Mongolian Empire and the role of Sogdian
merchants and nomads as part of ‘global nodes’ in the formation of transnational history.

 The second group is led by Shiro Momoki. He is the founder of a new field of study called ‘Asian
History’, and his group has founded the Society of Asian Maritime Studies, which regularly
organises series of seminars and workshops. He has edited Kaiiki Ajiashi Kenkyu Nyumon
[Introduction to Asian Maritime History], which is the first comprehensive introductory book on
the subject and has been translated into Korean and Chinese. His group pays a great deal of
attention to the early-modern maritime history in East Asia and Southeast Asia, and uses original
vernacular Asian documents as well as VOC and EEIC (English East India Company) documents. Asian
maritime history is closely related to the third topic, the history of the Chinese Empire and the
development of tributary-trade system in the early- modern period. Kojiro Taguchi and Emeritus
Prof. Tsuyoshi Katayama  lead this group which covers the time period from the early-modern
period to the contemporary times, and mainly focuses on institutions and economic development from
comparative perspectives. By combining the work of these two research groups, we can offer an
alternative interpretation of ‘The Age  of Great Exploration of  the  Europeans’ from Asian
perspectives and  present  the  historical importance  of regional trading networks and their
implication for economic development in East Asia.

  The fourth project is related to the reconsideration of the historical origins of contemporary
economic resurgence of  East Asia,  or  ‘the  East Asian Miracle’ (from  a  World  Bank  report),  
led  by  myself.  My  main  research  topic  is  the ‘International Order of Asia in the 19th  and
20th  centuries’ and the reconsideration of ‘the East Asian Miracle’ from Asian perspectives. We
may reveal close links and inter-connectedness between (a) the development and transformation of
‘intra- Asian trade’, (b) the emergence of ‘open-regionalism’ in Asia-Pacific, and (c) the
formation of ‘developmental state’ and the progress of ‘developmentalism’ as the driving forces of
economic resurgence of East Asia. Kotaro Nakano, who is majoring in  the  modern and contemporary
history  of the US with special reference  to migration and the formation of multicultural  
societies  from  comparative  perspectives,  will  cooperate  on  the  analysis  of  the  role  of  
the  US  in  the development of modern and contemporary globalisation. This group aims at
investigating the modern and contemporary international economic order of Asia, through
collaboration with scholars from Britain and the United States and with Asian scholars from Korea,
China, and India. Relevant research areas include the role of hegemonic states in the
transformation of the international order, the comparative study of empires from the ‘early-modern’
period to the twentieth century, and the study of the historical origins of ‘the East Asian

 By drawing on the expertise of these three groups of researchers, Osaka University offers
perspectives on a long historical period, from ancient to contemporary times. In doing so, it hopes
 to provide  new  and original insights  into world/global history from Asian perspectives.

2.    Division  of  Global  History,  Institute  for  Open  and  Transdisciplinary  Research  
Initiatives  (OTRI),  Osaka University

In October 2014, Osaka University, at the initiative of former President Prof. Toshio Hirano,
established the Institute for Academic Initiatives (IAI). As the ninth division of the IAI, ‘global
history’ became one of the four main research areas within this new organisational framework. Our
division proposed to explore, among other topics, ‘global history’ from Asian perspectives through
interdisciplinary research embracing a wide range of academic fields: history, international
relations, economics, the arts and social sciences, and cultural studies. In addition, Osaka
University could draw on a rich legacy in area studies and Asian studies which it had inherited
from the Osaka University of Foreign Studies (integrated with Osaka University in October 2007).

  The  IAI  changed  its  name  to  the  Institute  for  Open  and Transdisciplinary  Research  
Initiatives  (OTRI)   in October 2015, and  the  ninth  division  was  renamed  as  ‘the  Division
of Global History’. The  division consists  of 16 Japanese members from 5 Graduate Schools
(Graduate School of Letters, Graduate School of Law, Graduate School of Economics, Osaka School of
International Public Policies and Graduate School of Language & Cultures) and 1 permanent foreign
professor. In addition, we have a specially appointed Visiting Professor every year: Sun Laichen
(California State University, Fullerton: May-July 2016 and 2018); Liu Hong (Nanyang Technological
University, Singapore: November 2017-January 2018); and George Souza (University of Texas, San
Antonio: May-July 2019). By appointing these prominent Visiting Professors to collaborate with us,
we are able to integrate global perspective into our research.

  The division has already established close collaborative relationships not only with several key
Asian universities such  as  Ewha Womans  University  and Sogang  University  (Korea),  University  
of  Beijing  and Beijing  Foreign studies University (China), Nanyang Technological University
(Singapore), and Jawaharlal Nehru University (India), but also with University  of  Pittsburgh  (US), 
University  of  London—London  School  of  Economics  and  Kings College  (UK)【See attached figure】.
In addition to these bilateral collaborations, in April 2015,we also established a three-year
international joint  research  program  on  global  history  with  five  prominent  universities
  (Oxford,  Leiden,  Konstanz,  Princeton,  and  Kolkata), in order to form a wider research network (consortium)
for global history studies.

  Furthermore,  we  intimately  cooperate  with  the  Asian  Association  of  World  Historians  
(AAWH) ,  an international organisation for the promotion of global/world history studies in the
Asia-Pacific region. The headquarters of
the AAWH are located at Osaka University, and I’m the President of the AAWH (2015-2021). Nowadays, as mentioned later in the paper, the collaboration with the AAWH has become the key, crucial, and indispensable activity of the global history division, and the AAWH occupies the central position
in our attempts to build a platform for global history studies in Asia-Pacific. Osaka University
aims to offer a ‘gateway’ to global history studies in Asia and to connect and introduce Japanese
and other Asian scholars to global/world history academic research networks.

  In addition to these academic research activities, we are making a strong contribution to society
by collaborating with senior high-school teachers and journalists  to  reform world history
education in Japan and Asia. To this  end, we regularly hold monthly meetings (Osaka University
History Education Project) and occasional international workshops. In the next two sections, let
me briefly introduce our international collaborations and partly the contents & results of our
researches, based on our two big events: Global History Consortium Workshop in 2016 and the Fourth
AAWH Osaka Congress in 2019.

3.    Global History Workshop: ‘Globalisation from East Asian Perspectives’ (15th–17th March 2016)

Osaka University intensively collaborated with Oxford Centre for Global History as part of a
three-year joint research
project  on  ‘Global  Nodes,  Global  Orders’,  financially supported  by  the  Leverhulme  
Foundation  with  other  three  key universities. The Oxford collaboration formed a ‘Global History
Consortium’ and held six international workshops within three years. Osaka hosted the third
workshop in mid-March 2016. In the Osaka workshop, we explored the unique features of globalisation
in our region through discussing ‘Globalisation from East Asian Perspectives’ for three days.

  On the first day, ‘Early Globalisation in Eastern Eurasia and Maritime Asia: Networks, States,
Commerce, and Religions’ dealt with Eastern Eurasia and its adjacent maritime regions in the first
and early second millennium. The first panel ‘The First Millennium CE’ covered the period prior to
the tenth century. Various transnational interactions, networks, and migrations were examined
within their ecological settings and against the background of often multipolar international
relationships. The contributions of the participants revealed the existence of pluralistic systems
of authority and legitimacy which differ from the Sino-centric view based on Confucianism.
Moreover, this panel provided evidence for the multi- ethnic composition of the Chinese Empire and
the Sinic World from the Southern and Northern Dynasties to the Sui-Tang Period, rather than taking
the view of the Chinese Empire as a monolithic empire of the Han people. Ethnic diversity was
common among many peoples, including Central Eurasian nomadic and oasis peoples. The revisionist
view of the Sinic World, in turn, requires a fundamental revision of the histories of the ‘smaller
empires’ in contemporary Northeast Asia (present-day Northeast China, Korea, and Japan).

  Regarding human networks and migration, a close analysis of the eastward expansion of the Sogdian
people was offered. The analysis not only emphasised their widely discussed commercial expansion but also
advanced an argument about their military activities in alliance with Turkish nomadic powers. In
relation to religious networks, not only Buddhist but Manichaeist networks were also examined by
focusing on the role of both diplomacy and politics. As for questions regarding the state and its
authority, a revision of the Tang-model of state formation in Japan was suggested.  In order to
shed light on the influences of global interactions, a comparison between Central Eurasian oasis
and maritime Asian port cities was also made based on ecological and social settings. Fascinating
evidence on written sources and their formats, such as Dunhuang and Turfan documents, Tang
epitaphs, diplomatic correspondence between East Eurasian monarchs, and Japanese and Korean wooden
strips, was included in the papers on Central Eurasia, China, and Japan. The contributions on
Maritime Asia, meanwhile, carefully incorporated knowledge from archaeology and area studies.

  The second panel ‘Early Second Millennium and the Mongol Empire’ covered the period from the tenth
to the fourteenth century, and was based on sources in a range of languages, including Mongol,
Turkish, Arabic, Sino-Vietnamese, Japanese, and Korean, in addition to evidence from archaeology
and field surveys. First, the political and diplomatic history of  Eastern  Eurasia  prior  to  the
 thirteenth  century  was  examined  against  the  background  of  multipolar  international
relationships  between large  empires  like  those of the  Khitans and the  Song, and other smaller
ones. The  analysis  of diplomatic letters and ceremonies offered fresh insight. Second,
commercial and human networks were examined using the  case  of  the  Muslim  diaspora  in  the  
China  Seas. These  networks  often  left  traces  in  hybrid  cultural  identities  and
international trade in which the Islands of Japan were involved. Third, the epoch-making
characteristics of the Mongol Empire  were  discussed.  Here,  topics  included  the  analysis  of  
polycentric  military,  political  and  social  systems,  and multilingual, though highly
standardised, systems of communication. The discussions also paid due attention to the unique
position and evolution of mid-sized agrarian states in the region, such as Japan, Goryeo (Korea),
and Dai Viet (Vietnam). In conclusion, a general discussion on the ‘Fourteenth Century Crisis’
was held, and this discussion covered political and socio-economic  changes  but also incorporated
hitherto neglected perspectives  on gender, family, and climatic  change, among others.

  Recent scholarship has made  an effort to incorporate Asian experiences  into a  ‘global’ history  
of economic, political, military, cultural, and social dynamics by taking a long-term perspective. Nonetheless,
the exchange of views between the experts of ‘global history’ and ‘local’ histories is still
limited. Historians specialising in ‘the local’ hardly have the ambition to present their empirical
studies in the context of ‘global’ issues. In turn, many historians of ‘the global’ rarely venture
into archives and instead base their analyses on the in-depth research of regional specialists.
This is notably the case with the historiography of the continental and maritime world of Eastern
Eurasia. Even after the ‘California School’ presented revisionist views challenging the
Eurocentrism of studies on globalism, these studies continued to adhere to an analysis along the
lines of an East-West binary.

  The second day of the Osaka workshop shed light on ‘Early-Modern Globalisation and East Asia’ and
revealed how  daily lives  in this  region were  sustained, manipulated, and institutionalised
under the  rule  of, or through mutual negotiation among polities of various sizes. Under the topic
‘empire-ness’, the contributors proposed a range of issues for discussion. Here, the term empire
does not necessarily connote a despotic polity which is large in size, oppressive to its subjects,
and prone to military expansionism. Rather, the concept was used heuristically, not typologically.
This enabled us to  better  understand  how  polities  tackled the  thorny  task  of establishing  
or strengthening  their  regime  surrounded  by
linguistically and religiously diversified social groups.

  After the fourteenth century, when the gigantic Mongol Empire abandoned its territory in China
proper, the Ming Empire set out to preside over the social order, physical distribution, and
military control in a geographically vast territory. Importantly, there is evidence of such
political behaviour in many polities, including Japan, Choson Korea, and Vietnam, especially during
the seventeenth century when, as a consequence, the Manchu rulers prevailed in the fierce
competition with their  rivals.  In short,  it  was  suggested that empire  was  an elastic  notion
to describe  social cohesions, somewhat different in form from those within present
nation-states. At the same time, one could also address issues, such as the relationship between
global hegemony and nation-building. Only in this way can one make useful comparisons between
polities, from a different perspective than that of self-contained nation-states. Empires were
without exception confronted with  the  arcane  task  of  ‘incorporating’ diversified  social  
groups  and  to  cope  with  an  increasingly  fluidizing  global environment, notably sustained by
expanding trade and the in-flow of silver bullion. Thus, the historical world in the eastern part
of Eurasia is understood as an arena where daily negotiations between, and the institutionalisation
of diverse actors, including village headmen, tribal chiefs, officials, and even imperial
households, were (and are) taking place intermingled. From this perspective, panel III ‘Big Games
and Small Games in Early-Modern East Asia’ focused on the ‘macro-sphere’ of empires, namely politics,
diplomacy, foreign trade, governmental finance, and war-making. Panel IV ‘Daily Lives  and 
the  Making  of  Early-Modern  Empires’  turned  to  ‘micro-level’ subjects,  including  the village
community, agriculture, population behaviour, and famine relief.

  The third day of the workshop focused on ‘Modern and Contemporary Globalisation from East Asian
Perspectives’. At the turn of the second millennium in 2000, new trends in global history research
attracted attention, mainly focusing on the revaluation of Asia’s position in the world. Two
studies gave a strong impetus to the debate: Angus Maddison’s The World Economy: a millennial
perspective, and Kenneth Pomeranz’s provocative The Great Divergence—China, Europe, and the Making
of the Modern World Economy. The publication of these two books led to the reconsideration of the
‘Early- Modern period’ or the ‘Long Eighteenth Century’ based on comparisons between Europe and
Asia. On the third day, the panels discussed the focal shift in the world economy from the
Transatlantic world to Asia-Pacific, which also requires the reconsideration  of  the  nineteenth  
century  from  Asian  perspectives.  These  problems  were  addressed  in  panel  V ‘Reconsidering
the Nineteenth Century: The Reassessment of ‘Agricultural Development’ in South and Southeast Asia
in the Nineteenth Century from the Perspective of Global History’.

  At the first workshop of Global History Consortium at Princeton, the theme was the reconsideration
of ‘the 1860s’
within  global  history. Traditionally,  the  nineteenth  century  has  been characterised  as  
the  ‘European  century’,  or  the century of European-centred globalisation. It is no coincidence
that E. J. Hobsbawm wrote three influential volumes on ‘the Long Nineteenth Century’. The Princeton
workshop was heavily influenced by two important books on the nineteenth century: C. Bayly’s The
Birth of the Modern World 1780-1914, and Jürgen Osterhammel’s The Transformation of the World: A
Global History of the Nineteenth Century. Both books offer stimulating European interpretations of
the nineteenth century, and it is a truism that Western Europe occupied a dominant position at the
core of the Modern World System. Nonetheless, Asian initiatives in economic development during the
second half of the nineteenth century still need to be fully explored.

  Panel V reconsidered the historical significance of ‘agricultural development’ in Asia. In the
second half of the nineteenth century, evidence suggests connections between increasing
agricultural production in Asia, population growth, and  migrations  within  and  beyond  Asia.  
These  phenomena  have  usually  been  interpreted  within  the  framework  of European-led
economic globalisation or the incorporation of Asia into the world economy (Modern World System).
These interpretations take the perspective of Western colonial empires and an imperialistic world

  By contrast, recent studies  in global history in Japan have emphasised the evidence for Asian
initiatives for economic development and the impact of indigenous agency. These studies stress the
influence of the activities of Asian merchants (Indian & Chinese) and local peasants on the
production of agricultural commodities, such as rice, sugar, and natural  rubber,  among  others
.  The  panel  explored  the  dynamic  role  played  by  these  Asian  agencies  in  economic
‘development’,  especially  in  ‘agricultural  development’,  and  their  significance  in  
transforming  agrarian  societies  and patterns  of  land-holding  not  only in  former  colonies  
such  as  British  India,  the  Dutch East-Indies  (Indonesia),  and Northern Vietnam (French
Indochina) but also in Siam (Thailand). In order to facilitate comparisons, and to shed light on
the peculiarities of tropical regions, a case study of the Russian Far East (Northeast Asia) 
was also included.

  Finally, panel VI ‘Historical Origins of the ‘East Asian Economic Resurgence’ explored the
historical origins of the current ‘East Asian economic resurgence’, or ‘the East Asian miracle’, as
it was dubbed by the World Bank in 1993.
The driving force behind behind the economic resurgence
of East Asia since the early 1980s was: (a) the revival and growth of ‘intra-Asian trade’ or
inter-regional trade within Asia in the 1970s; and (b) the emergence of state-led ‘developmentalism’
in East and Southeast Asia in the 1960s. ‘Developmentalism’ meant that industrialisation in Asia was fostered
through national policies, namely the state-sponsored mobilisation and control of natural and
human resources. These initiatives were closely connected to economic aid policies influenced by
Cold War politics. Japan played a leading role in this process of  economic  resurgence  and  promoted
  ‘intra-Asian  competition’  for  export-oriented  industrialisation.  The  role  of hegemonic states, first the
UK (the British Empire) and then the US, in providing ‘international public goods’ to the world
economy should be considered in this context. Arguably, many developing countries in East and
Southeast Asia could utilise ‘Pax Britannica’ and ‘Pax Americana’ for their own economic

  This is a broad overview of the Osaka workshop of the Global History Consortium. After three days
of intensive discussions, the Osaka research group was able to suggest the new historical concept
of  ‘Eastern Eurasia’ as a mega- regional historical entity. This region encompasses not only the
central and eastern parts of the Eurasian continent from the ancient ‘Silk Road’ to the Mongolian
World Empire of the middle ages and its early modern successors, such as the Ming & Ching Dynasties
of China (the Chinese Empire) and the Mughal Empire of the Indian subcontinent, but also the
maritime world of Southeast Asia. Juxtaposed to this analysis were contributions by scholars from
Oxford University, who offered interpretations of Europe as part of ‘Western Eurasia’. The
mega-regional twin concepts of Eastern and Western Eurasia emphasise the need for further
comparative and relational investigations of the Eurasian continent in the study of global history.
 Important  aspects  of  these  collaborations  were  introduced  during  the  first  day  of  the  
workshop,  focusing  on historical periods before the collapse of the Mongol Empire. In order to
stimulate a wide-ranging discussion, the workshop did not confine itself to covering a single
academic specialisation, such as Central Eurasia or the Sinic World. Rather, global analytical
frameworks were introduced, including Victor Lieberman’s global comparisons with ‘charter states’
in Eurasia.

  With regard to vertical historical perspectives, the workshop addressed the ‘reconsideration of the
century from Asian perspectives’. This discussion was based on new evidence on Asian economic
development in the second  half  of  the  nineteenth  century,  notably  the  role  of  indigenous  
Asian  merchants  and  small  peasants.  This reconsideration suggests a new periodisation of the
modern and contemporary period which arguably has implications for debates about the rapid
transformation of East Asian economies in the second half of the twentieth century, the so-called
‘East Asian  Miracle’.  The  argument  will  help  account  for  the  shift  of  global  economy’s  
centre  of  gravity  from  the Transatlantic economy to the emerging Asia-Pacific economy.

  This workshop enabled us to reflect on latest global history studies, more specifically the history
of globalisation, from hitherto unexplored perspectives, by drawing on an international academic
network. To relativize this Western-centred Consortium network centred on the Oxford Centre for
Global History, we could fully utilise the Asian Association of World Historians (AAWH), our own
academic network in the Asia-Pacific region. We would like to continue to play a leading role in
the advancement of global history studies from Asian perspectives, and to promote the study in
cooperation with colleagues from Asia.

4.    The Fourth AAWH Osaka Conference on ‘Creating World Histories from Asian Perspectives’(5th &
6th January 2019)

As I have already mentioned, in October 2015, the ninth division of IAI was renamed as ‘Division of
Global History’, the Institute for Open and Transdisciplinary Research Initiatives (OTRI). Since
then, we have been pursuing one of the eight main research subjects within this new organisational
framework. In order to explore and create new historical perspectives, we can draw on rich academic
achievements of Osaka University of Foreign Studies (integrated with Osaka University in October
2007) in area studies and Asian studies.

  On  4  May  2008,  a  new  international  organisation  for  world  history  called  the  ‘Asian
Association  of World Historians’ (AAWH) was founded in China at Nankai University, Tianjin. The
purpose of the association is to advance research, teaching, and public discussion on large-scale
historical studies in and for the Asia-Pacific region. The AAWH usually holds its international
congress every three years. The first congress was held in May 2009 in Osaka, and the theme was
‘World History Studies and World History Education’. The congress was expected to contribute to the
following three goals:(1) to promote dialogue among world/global historians in Asia-Pacific; (2) to
develop concepts and programmes of world/global history studies from Asian perspectives; and (3) to
build a better relationship between world history studies and  world  history  education  in  
senior  high  schools.  It  is  worth  mentioning  that  since  its  foundation,  the AAWH  has
emphasised an intimate cooperation between academic historians and history teachers in secondary
schools as a vital link with and important social contribution to our society.
  The second AAWH congress was held in late April 2012 at Ewha Womans University in Seoul, Korea, and
the theme was ‘Global Exchange Networks of Asia & Alternative Modernities in Asia’. Further, the
third congress was held in May 2015 at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and its theme
was  ‘Migration in Global History: Peoples, Plants, Plagues, and Ports’. The fourth congress was
originally planned to be held in China in July 2018. However, due to political reasons, the fourth
congress was forced to cancel just one-month before, and Osaka University finally agreed to have an
emergency congress in early January 2019 by fully utilising its established academic networks as
the gateway to global history studies in Asia-Pacific.
Since  its  establishment  in  Tianjin/Osaka  ten  years  ago,  the AAWH  has  continued  to  
explore  new  interpretations  of world/global  histories  from Asian  perspectives. At  present,  
‘the  concepts  and  methods  of  world/global  history  differ considerably from country to
country in this region’ (from AAWH Charter). The AAWH still needs more time to present a grand
alternative vision or interpretation of world/global history from Asian perspectives. However, we
have now decided to explore and present new interpretations based on transregional or transnational
frameworks. We hope to accomplish this by combining a vertical historical perspective of the
longue-durée from the ancient to the contemporary period with a horizontal  analysis  encompassing  
a  range  of  specific  regional  studies,  such  as  ‘Creating  World  Histories  from  Asian
Perspectives’, which are beyond the purview of national histories.

  At the 2019 conference, we set three plenary lectures by distinguished Asian historians to present
our distinctive interpretations of world/global history from Asian perspectives.

  The first keynote speaker was Prof. Li Bozhong, a well- known global & Chinese economic historian.
He presented to us his analysis of Central and Eastern Eurasian history, ‘1524: The End of the Silk
Road? --- A Critical Reaction to the Hot Discussion of the Concept throughout China’, based on
global economic history studies. It was as follows:

  In  1524,  the  imperial  court  of  the  Ming  made  a  decision:  to  relocate  seven  frontier  
  garrisons  in  the  country’s northwest border areas from their original stations outside Jiayu
  Pass at the western end of the Great Wall to their new  stations  within the  pass. Though this  
  decision  and  its  implementation hasn’t  received  much attention  from historians, it is an
  event of far reaching significance in world history: It marked the closing of the Silk Road which
  stretched across Eurasia and was seen as a ‘great channel for international trade’ by many

      In terms of trade volume and size, the Silk Road was not as important as is usually believed. One
    of the main obstacles  to  the  expansion  of  the  trade  was  the  unendurably  high  cost  of  
    trade,  which  resulted  from  not  just extremely poor transportation, but also from extremely
    dangerous circumstances caused by political instability in this  area.  Second,  the  trade  was  
    highly  unbalanced:  China’s  exports  dwarfed  its  imports  and  made  the  trade unbalanced.
    Third, the trade was mainly conducted for and political purposes and the Chinese state was in
of it. As  a  result, the  size  and frequency depended on  the  policies  of the  Chinese  state.
    Moreover, during the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, two great changes happened: climate
    change and the rise of the maritime trade. Both of them, in particular the  latter, had a  
    significant effect on the Silk Road  trade and accelerated  its decline.

His lecture clearly pointed out the turning point for ‘Silk Road’ as a trade and communication
route between the East and the West, and its multifaceted reasons: economic, military (strategic),
and environmental. Especially, the factor of climate change, revealed with the development of
environmental history, is worth mentioning in the context of global/world history studies. Further,
his lecture is closely related to Central Eurasian History and the Chinese Empire, a research area
in which Osaka University has a strong base/foundation.

  The second plenary was delivered by Prof. Aditya Mukherjee, a key economic historian at Jawaharlal
Nehru University in India. His topic was ‘The Transformation of the Indian Economy in the
Contemporary Period: From the Colonial to the Post-Colonial’, and he examined modern/contemporary
development of world economy and globalisation from the perspectives of the ‘Global South’.

  Mukherjee  criticised  both  the  neo-colonial  interpretation  that  colonialism  led to  economic
 development and prepared the ground for the rapid post-colonial development, seen in India in
recent years, and the orthodox Left view, which denies the possibility of any transition to
independent development in a colony even after independence unless the colonial economy ‘shoots
out’ of the capitalist world system into socialism. He provided contrasting data for colonial and
post-colonial development in India, suggesting that it is the break rather than the continuity with
colonialism which made the economic development possible. In addition, the post-colonial
development in India also belied the orthodox Left view that the country was heading towards
further neo-colonial or dependent development rather than independent development, because  India  
remained within  the  world capitalist system. While  the  post-colonial  situation  in the  
country  definitely marked a significant break with colonialism in the economic sphere, the
continuities with colonialism remain in the area of social divisions promoted during the colonial
period, and in the persistence of the colonial mindset, particularly in the intellectual domain.
Mukherjee’s lecture offered us the opportunity to rethink the academic premises of Asian
historians, who  normally  take  for  granted  the  validity  of  European  ideas  and  concepts  
on  ‘development’ and  ‘capitalism’.  His stimulating presentation reminds us of his interesting
essay ‘India and the World Economy in the Nineteenth Century’, a reconsideration of the nineteenth
century from the ‘Global South’.

  The third plenary-lecture, ‘Japan’s Meiji Revolution in Global History: Searching for some
generalisations out of
history’, was made by Emeritus Prof. Hiroshi Mitani, the University of Tokyo, one of the leading
scholars in Japanese modern history.    He reconsidered the historical significance of the Meiji
Revolution after the 150th anniversary as follows:

        The Meiji Revolution was one of the major revolutions in the nineteenth century, and occurred in
        the state with the fifth-largest population in the world at that time. It dissolved the samurai
        aristocracy of the early modern Japan and sparked  incessant  efforts  for  social  reforms.  Yet,  
        the  Meiji  Revolution  has  been  almost  invisible  in  the historiography of modern revolutions.
        This is because the revolution was different from the model of revolution prevalent during the
        twentieth century: under that model, revolutions must overthrow the monarchy and feature the
        intentional use of violence and propaganda. In the Meiji Revolution, Japan’s monarchy was actually
        strengthened by the consolidation of double kingship under a single imperial throne, while the
        death toll was small, around 30,000, much lower than that of other major world revolutions such as
        the French Revolution.
         These differences make the Meiji Revolution useful in widening the concept of revolution. In order
        to fight social injustice, people are not necessarily obliged to overthrow a monarchy, nor must
        they resort to large-scale violence. Reframing the Meiji Revolution in global context will give us
        an opportunity to search for and perhaps identify the methods for achieving radical reforms without
        resorting to widespread sacrifice.

He  presented  to us  several issues  for  a  global comparative  analysis  of revolutions  
utilising the  Meiji Revolution as  a touchstone. The first concerned initial conditions for a
revolution. In the nineteenth century, Japan saw the rise of a new emperor-centred view which
considered the Kyoto emperor above the Edo-based Shogunate. Once the Shogunate failed to resist
Western pressure to open Japan for trade, people promptly shifted their loyalties to the Kyoto
Emperor, and expected him to be more effective in dealing with Western demands.

  The second issue was the role of kingship in revolutions. The Kyoto emperor and his court nobles
had little power except for their symbolic status. The third issue was the self-image of the
country in the world. Most Japanese continued to place Japan on the periphery of Chinese and Indian
civilisations. It was consequently easier for the Japanese to pay attention to the power shift
caused by the West during the first half of the nineteenth century. This offered intellectuals a
strong motivation to start reforms for national defence. The fourth issue was the death toll during
the revolution. The fifth and final issue was how the public sphere separated itself from violence.
For the success of a revolution, politicians must abandon violence at some stage. He argued how new
regimes could separate themselves from the use of violence.

  Mitani’s lecture was based on his accumulated empirical research on the Meiji Revolution and his
strong efforts to locate modern Japanese history in the context of world history in the nineteenth
century. Further, his analyses involve a
typical ‘bilateral comparison’ of global history studies, partly proposed by leading ‘California School’ historians such as Roy Bing Wong and Kenneth Pomeranz. Through these studies involving bilateral comparison, we can relativize the core concept of ‘revolutions’ in global context and
clearly reconsider historical significance of the French Revolution and its impacts & legacies in
world history.

  Following these key-note lectures, seventeen big panels on a wide range of topics and thirty
private papers were presented at the congress. By drawing on the expertise of our participants
and based on transregional frameworks, the AAWH  Osaka  congress  explored  perspectives  on  a  
long  historical  period,  from  ancient  to  contemporary  times  They provided new and original
insights into world and global histories from Asian perspectives. In addition, we tried to make a  
strong  contribution  to  Japanese  society  by  collaborating  with  senior  high-school  teachers
 and  journalists.  This collaboration  aimed  at  reforming  world  history  education  in Japan  
through  the  publication of  school textbooks. Such collaboration with prominent senior-high
school teachers might be the best example of outreach activities by historians to emphasise the
social usefulness of their studies.