Music Global Music History
Makoto Takao
  • LAST REVIEWED: 23 August 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 23 August 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199757824-0317


The “global turn” is an indisputable leitmotif of 21st-century scholarship. In looking to the ways in which we tell stories about our musical pasts, the confines of national narratives have progressively given way to regional, comparative, transnational, and global histories. As much as these approaches are themselves interconnected and mutually constitutive, they offer differing lenses to observe global linkages and developments across space and time. As the Anglo-center of musicology awakens to its own provincializing moment, scholars are increasingly engaging with the modern field of “global history” to navigate the imperial legacies of their craft and its attendant theories, methods, and biases. To this end, historical musicologists and ethnomusicologists alike find parallel aspirations in overcoming the 19th-century relics of methodological nationalism and Eurocentric models and myths of universal progress. In other words, they are increasingly asking how we are to navigate a terminal point in these imperial legacies and to foster post-Eurocentric frameworks for the historical study of our world’s musics. Much like the more established field of global historiography, global music history (sometimes referred to as, and used interchangeably with, a global history of music) is not a clear signifier as such and shares analytical terrain with other approaches to music concerned with forms of transfer, interaction, entanglement, and cross-border exchange. While consideration of music histories on a larger scale is thus by no means new, the rise of the “global” as a specific epistemological premise, rather than as a mere complementary view, has led to this burgeoning field most prominently over the past decade. But it is perhaps its polysemous identity that has fostered such momentum, with an increasing number of scholarly publications, university courses, and professional study groups coalescing around these three words. Being conscious that this Anglophone term (and its exclusionary potential) must be scrutinized within multilingual and multilateral contexts, the field is not without its challenges. This bibliography therefore balances its overviews and case studies with important literature that highlight these roadblocks as well as paths forward. Wherever possible (and within the limits of my own abilities), this bibliography engages with relevant non-Anglophone scholarship, but acknowledges the limitations of what is presented here. I have also been conscious to select publications in English that themselves enter into more meaningful dialogue with historiographies of and through a diversity of geocultural settings and associated perspectives. As a field in the throes of continued debate and maturation, it is not my intention to ossify any singular definition, but rather to shed light on the various scholarly priorities, practices, questions, and concerns that fall within its purview. The categories below are thus articulated as navigational tools and are not designed to re-inscribe any sense of disciplinary, linguistic, or regional division. On the contrary, it is hoped that they will facilitate a greater degree of collaboration (whether between people or disciplines) and the fostering of decolonial approaches to this growing field.

General Overviews: Global History

Inasmuch as our consciousness of the world’s interconnectedness defines conditions of the globalized present, global history has emerged out of continued recognition that Westphalian and Eurocentric modes of analyzing the past are no longer adequate or appropriate. In advancing Dipesh Chakrabarty’s celebrated call to “provincialize Europe,” scholars have increasingly sought to transform that region, in the words of David Washbrook, from a “knowing subject” of global history into an object shaped by that history. This willingness to transcend inherited historiographical boundaries has shaped global history as a diverse set of approaches that are generally (though not always) united in challenging national narratives, centrist frameworks, and problematic comparisons. The following two sections are intended to offer students and scholars of music a “way in” to this field, as well as to more focused works on relevant concepts, theories, methods, and obstacles. Considering its interest in border crossings common to other modes of historical inquiry (as discussed in Middell 2020), Conrad 2016 sees global history as a new perspective rather than as a distinct discipline unto itself. In other words, thinking global is more about situating a specific space (be it local, regional, national, or otherwise) within the context of global structures and transformations and less about pursuit of a “universal” scope. To this end, Conrad’s concern with “causation up to the global level” represents one epistemological camp that furthers (or offers explanatory foundations for) another that is primarily occupied with tracing circulations, exchanges, and flows of ideas, practices, peoples, and commodities between groups and societies. Sachsenmaier 2011 shares in the former understanding of the global analytic as a “compound web” of spatial scales that situate subjects within frameworks that move beyond conventional boundaries. By contrast, Scheuzger 2019 critiques the field’s apprehension in concretely defining what constitutes the “global,” stressing a need for greater conceptual coherence and consistency. Nevertheless, various rethinkings of spatial and temporal scales abound. Betrand and Calafat 2018 explores such an approach in combining micro-historical methodologies with the objectives of global history. Scheuzger also investigates this blending of spatial perspectives in his proposal for a polycentric global history. For Conrad, one of the hallmarks of the “global turn” is an increasing interest in unified discussions of contemporaneous but geographically distant events (i.e., synchronicity). Inasmuch as this approach seeks to flatten an understanding of linear time, Brook 2009 proposes a post-Eurocentric model that focuses on moments rather than temporal duration. And while consistent calls have been made for the fostering and prioritizing of collaborative scholarship (see Haneda 2015, cited under Problematizing Global History) the pragmatics of global history have also sparked debate about the continued legitimacy of publishing monographs. Riello 2007 outlines frameworks for the practice of such single-authored historiography amid the global turn, while Scheuzger offers counterarguments to those who oppose this practice. To the extent that Riello acknowledges the regional and disciplinary limits of any singular scholar’s horizon, Sachsenmaier shifts this vista beyond the individual toward transnational dialogues that cut across methodological nationalisms. The essays in Beckert and Sachsenmaier 2018 similarly bring to light the world’s diversity of traditions in thinking and writing about history that eschew the nation as a central unit of study. Middell identifies a critical point in the 2010s in which global historians enter a “second wave” of scholarship that engages with established criticisms leveled at its “first wave,” as seen in Barth, et al. 2014. Belich, et al. 2016 offers reflections on the field of global history to date as one largely concerned with self-inquiry, critical re-evaluation, and conceptual building, overviewing ways of thinking “globally” through the paradigms of comparative history, connected history, and globalization.

  • Barth, Boris, Stefanie Gänger, and Niels P. Petersson, eds. Globalgeschichten: Bestandsaufnahme und Perspektiven. Frankfurt: Campus Verlag, 2014.

    An anthology that offers important counterpoints to global history’s first wave of criticism. Through contrasting methodological approaches (both micro/macro, source analysis/secondary analysis, etc.) the contributions collectively attend to the present state of the field’s maturation through endorsement of “globalizations” and “global histories” in the plural. Of particular interest is the editors’ introduction and Martin Rempe’s essay on musical mobility in the twentieth century. Title in English: “Global histories: Survey and perspectives.”

  • Beckert, Sven, and Dominic Sachsenmaier, eds. Global History, Globally: Research and Practice around the World. London: Bloomsbury, 2018.

    An anthology that analyzes a range of non-national ways of thinking and writing about history, from Turkey, the Arabic Middle East, and East Asia to Latin America, North America, Africa, and the Caribbean. The editors prompt important discussion about the practical reality of global history as a global project that facilitates all traditions of history-making as well as the unravelling of hegemonic institutional structures.

  • Belich, James, John Darwin, Margret Frenz, and Chris Wickham, eds. The Prospect of Global History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016.

    An anthology that includes both conceptually and theoretically oriented essays alongside historical case studies. Though the latter gesture toward geographical diversity (namely via South and East Asia), much of this anthology is concerned with the Euro-American experience. Nevertheless, this book offers useful vantage points for thinking about inter/intra-network mobilities as well as methodological distinctions between global history as the study of globalization, as comparative history, and as connected history.

  • Betrand, Romain, and Guillaume Calafat. “La microhistoire globale: Affaire(s) à suivre.” Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 73.1 (2018): 3–18.

    DOI: 10.1017/ahss.2018.108

    A methodological outline for doing global microhistory. Betrand and Calafat define global history as a specific approach to microhistory that invites critical reassessment of the latter’s seminal literature. The authors offer critique of British and US schools of global history, most notably in the overrepresentation of European colonialism in their respective scholarships. A greater turn to the social sciences is advocated for in the development of epistemological frameworks. Title in English: “Global microhistory: Case(s) to follow”).

  • Brook, Timothy. “Time and Global History.” Globalizations 6.3 (2009): 379–387.

    DOI: 10.1080/14747730903142009

    A proposal for reconceptualizing time in global history in terms of moments rather than durations. To bind the unbounded nature of the global-historical project, Brook experiments with time—looking for “keyhole moments” that cut across timelines without replicating them. Informed by Buddhist philosophical thought, Brook is committed to an understanding of the past without reproducing the present as its necessary outcome.

  • Conrad, Sebastian. What Is Global History? Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2016.

    DOI: 10.2307/j.ctvc779r7

    A landmark work that distinguishes global history (as a specific analytical perspective) from related interpretations of world history. Conrad reflects on alternative conceptualizations of space, time, and positionality in developing relational and reflexive approaches to global history. This book also attends to the limits of the field and related ethical considerations, most prominently as to who it ultimately serves. A revised version of its original German publication.

  • Middell, Matthias. “From Universal History to Transregional Perspectives: The Challenge of the Cultural and Spatial Turn to World and Global History in the 1970s and Today.” Cultural History 9 (2020): 241–264.

    DOI: 10.3366/cult.2020.0223

    A useful overview of the “crises” in universal and world history and the development of modern global history. Middell explores the ways in which historiography’s cultural and spatial turns have shaped an interest in global connectivity while assessing critics’ views on the dominance of Anglo-Saxon notions of globalism and globalization. This article offers useful discussion on the intersection of transregional studies, cultural history, and global history.

  • Riello, Giorgio. “La globalisation de l’Histoire globale: Une question disputée.” Revue d’histoire moderne et contemporaine 54.5 (2007): 23–33.

    DOI: 10.3917/rhmc.545.0023

    A balanced discussion of the modern field of global history that speaks to its disciplinary and methodological identities. Riello writes from the perspective of single-authored scholarship, outlining the limits of this approach and the imperative of interregional and interdisciplinary dialogue. Riello also offers important criticism, most notably on the risk of global history as a form of scholarly empire-building and its potential for the siphoning of resources. Title in English: “The globalization of global history: A disputed question.”

  • Sachsenmaier, Dominic. Global Perspectives on Global History: Theories and Approaches in a Connected World. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511736544

    A pivotal intervention that approaches global history in broad terms of comparative connections. Sachsenmaier casts this wider net to reach a diversity of scholars (and their schools of thought) who do “global history” without necessarily identifying with the term or “discipline.” This book explores such relative scholarships and their underlying sociopolitical contexts in Germany, the United States, and China, while advocating for greater transnational dialogue and collaboration between them.

  • Scheuzger, Stefan. “Global History as Polycentric History.” Comparativ 29.2 (2019): 122–153.

    A polycentric proposal for global history examined through the lens of the prison and its modern history. Scheuzger reflects on seminal global-historical literature, establishing a distinction between “soft” and “hard” versions of global history: one in which the global is used as an escape from spatial containers, and the other in which the global is the central focus of theoretical interest (combining both micro and macro perspectives).

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.