To the Editor: In his review of Beyond Binary Histories: Reimagining Eurasia to c. 1830, Alan LeBaron acknowledged that this collection achieved its stated objective, namely to demonstrate that Eurasian societies in the early modern period experienced a range of "commonalities" that transcended a binary distinction between Europe and Asia. Yet at the same time, most curiously and with no apparent sense of contradiction, he claimed that the collection, which I edited, failed to deliver on "the promise of something different" (JWH 13:1, spring 2002, pp. 192195). What historiography provided his yardstick? Four grand claims lie at the heart of this publication: (1) Societies in Burma, Siam, Vietnam, France, Russia, and Japan between c. 1400 and 1830 demonstrated remarkably synchronized linear-cum-cyclic movements toward territorial consolidation, administrative centralization, and cultural standardization. (2) In each realm integration drew strength from a fluid synergy involving domestic agricultural and commercial growth, expanding international trade (including New World and Japanese bullion flows), intensifying interstate competition, cumulative institutional expertise, and new cultural models. This is not to deny or minimize elements of European particularism, as the reviewer apparently expected the collection would do. Rather, it is to argue that the historiographic obsession with such
Journal of World History – University of Hawai'I Press
Published: Oct 2, 2003
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