Empire in Asia

A New Global History

Islamic and European Expansion

Book Cover

Book Title

Islamic and European Expansion: The Forging of a Global Order. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1993


Adas, Michael. (ed.) Richard Eaton, Judith Tucker, Janet Abu-Lughod, Margaret Stroble, William H. McNeill


The collection of essays aims to provide both professional historians and interested readers with overview assessments of developments within a revitalized field of study. Emphasizing largely on cross-cultural perspectives provides a more well-rounded view of contemporary societies that are increasingly ethnically mixed, multicultural, and more and more linked to the rest of the world. The authors seek to chart the advances in our understandings of different aspects of world history that research and writing in this period had brought about, and to identify significant gaps in our knowledge that have yet to be filled and interpretive problems that remain to be solved.

Beginning with the rise of Islamic civilization, which was the first to encompass numerous centers of the Old World, Adas ends with the processes by which the nation-states of the West attained domination over all other civilizations. The first of three volumes on global and comparative history, this collection will be followed by a volume that explores themes in early and classical history; while the third volume will be devoted to world history in the twentieth century.

Scope (Topics Covered, Time Period)

The overall focus of the first of three projected volumes of essays on global ad comparative history is the era of world history that had begun in the seventh century and which had extended into the early 1900s.

The essays by Richard Eaton and Janet Abu-Lughod explore key themes in the spread of Islamic civilization, while with Philip D. Curtin they examined in great detail the important roles played by traders and trading networks in the forging of a global order. Abu-Lughod and McNeill's contributions confront the key questions concerning the reasons for the rise of Western Europe as the civilization that would later replace the previously dominant role of Islam as mediator of the long-drawn process of global unification.

Hence, the numerous essays cover a wide range of social, economic, military and political issues central to the great transitions that occurred between the fourteenth and sixteenth centuries. As the contributions by Michael Adas and Margaret Stroble illustrate, the decisive advantages that industrialization brought to the nations of Western Europe and North America had made possible the establishment of Western hegemony throughout the globe.

All the essays are thematically oriented, and each is organized around a particular historical era, such as the age of Islamic expansion or the centuries of industrial revolution.

Argument (Methodology, Significance)

The work is one that employs a thematic approach, particularly focusing on recurring processes, such as changes in military organization and patterns of colonization, or on such cross-cultural phenomena as the spread of disease, technology, and trading networks. The comparative approach to history is utilized by the authors and thus they saw it as vital to carry out a systematic selection of case examples in the historical materials that they specialize in.

The essays in this collection demonstrate that much of the recent work on global and comparative history has largely zoomed in on non-Western cultures and societies, or regions that were lumped together and were considered as the Third World before the collapse of the Second World accompanied by the credibility of the Cold War ideology. The spread of the Islamic civilization, European overseas expansion, the rise and decline of the South Atlantic slave trade, industrialization and the fulfillment of Europe's drive for global hegemony; all largely comprises of significant European elements. Yet, each of these processes were grounded in the historical experiences of non-Western societies, and thus the historical trajectory of Europeans has also been profoundly influenced by the responses of African, Asian, Latin American or Oceanic peoples.

Annotated by Michelle Djong