The Centre for Transnational History was launched in early 2009 and became the Institute for Transnational & Spatial History in September 2014. It combines the expertise of a number of colleagues working on European, Asian, North American or transatlantic history from the seventeenth century to the present. Individual and collaborative projects combine comparative, transnational and global perspectives.
What is transnational history?
Is modern Europe simply the sum of its national histories and historiographies? Can modern European history be thought of and written beyond the framework and boundaries of national histories? To what extent did European societies perceive and influence each other since the late-eighteenth century? How far did – and does – Europe stretch at certain periods? What about the patterns and dynamics of interconnection amongst European societies? To what extent did colonies and other non-European regions influence European societies and culture and were, in turn, influenced by them? These are questions tackled by transnational history.
We see transnational history as an open approach, a perspective and a way of seeing rather than a strict method. Transnational history allows us to bring together the synergies of different approaches including comparative history, global history, the history of transfers and circulation of ideas, in order to study the flow and movement of objects and people across time and space, often crossing borders between nations, states and cultures. As such it allows us to bring together a number of different fields of expertise and approaches and open up the otherwise often fixed entities or containers of history may this be a the idea of a spatially confined culture or nation.
What is spatial history?
History is a matter of time – and space. A certain preoccupation with time (at the expense of space) once characterized broad sections of modern European historiography, but scholars have now become increasingly interested in the spatial dimensions of history. These include physical-geographical spaces (cities, mountains, rivers), spaces that are constituted by social relations and human interaction (that is, space understood not as a stage unaffected by the social interaction unfolding on it, but very much constituted by it), and spaces that are imagined and discursively constructed (mental maps).
Research, Projects & Interests
In the School of History at St Andrews a large group of historians share a strong interest in comparative and transnational history as well as finding new ways of locating European history within a wider context. Our research and teaching activities cover the time period from c.1750 to the late-twentieth century and geographical areas as diverse as Germany, France, Switzerland, Great Britain, Italy, Poland, Russia, South-Eastern Europe, Iran, Northern Africa and North America.
Our current transnational research projects fall within the fields of travel writing and the circulation of knowledge, the history of borders and border regions, intellectual history, spatial history, the history of NGOs, popular culture, relations between Europe and Iran, and the Mediterranean as a European contact zone. Other areas cover imperial history as well as East Asian history in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Teaching Transnational & Global History
A wide range of courses combining comparative and transnational approaches to history are offered at the honours-level (3rd and 4th year undergraduates). In 2014-15 we added the skills and method-focused MO3351 Doing and Practicing Transnational and Global History to our teaching portfolio.
Feeding into the general Modern History MLitt programme the Institute currently offers two one-semester master level modules MO5710 Crossing borders. European history in transnational perspectives and MO5612 Global History, Globalisation and its Histories.
In 2015 we kicked off our new MA programme in Transnational, Global & Spatial History with a focus on skills such as mapping and visualising networks that allowed postgraduate students to dip into computer sciences or geography in order to acquire skills such as GIS.
Lectures, seminars, conferences and workshops
The Institute organises lectures, research seminars on comparative and transnational history. In order to provide an inspiring research context, we run a series of reading group sessions open to staff and students. We host conferences, workshops and we are co-organising a travelling summer school as part of our GRAINES network. A novelty we introduced in 2016 are the manuscript workshops: Interested ITSH members pre-circulate a draft article/book chapter/book of theirs, which is read by a few other members of the Institute. The readers offer specific comments on the draft, which they discuss with the author during the workshop and which they send to her/him in writing afterwards.
Public Outreach/Impact-related activities
Since 2016 we have embarked on a number of impact related activities:
- Our podcast series
- Public workshops (fetured theme for 2016-17: migration)