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Historical Comparatism and Cultural Transfers. From bilateral examples to contributions for a world history

Vol. 4, No. 2, December 2008
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Matthias Middell, Universität Leipzig

This article is centered on the controversy that took place in the 1990’s between the defenders of historical comparatism on the one hand and the supporters of the “Cultural transfers” approach on the other hand. It’s main objective is to help better understand the historical context as well as the theoretical repercussions of this controversy. In order to do so, it will first retrace the history of various efforts to elaborate the idea of a world history that began at the end of the 19th century. It will then emphasize the fact that in order to understand the intensity of the controversy – especially in its German context – one must recall two crucial elements : the particular historical situation at the beginning of the 1990’s and the discussions on the German “Sonderweg”.