Humans are social
animals. They cannot live entirely alone. Studying
human history means exploring how humans have
related to each other, and how those relationships
have changed over time. It is these relationships,
and the ability of humans to exchange and share
information, that make us distinctive from other
species. So human relations with each other are
naturally at the core of world history.
How humans have treated each other within families,
in times of war, in politics, and in commerce
have been the meat and drink of historical scholarship.
So have relationships between slaves and their
masters, rulers and their subjects, men and women,
one ethnic group and another. And in
investigating these relationships, world history
is no different from most other types of history.
But world history tries to ask these questions
about all humans. How did humans in one part
of the world affect humans in very different
parts of the world, through exchanges of goods,
diseases, or religious ideas and technologies?
Were there always states in human history? Or
cities? Was there always war? By raising such
questions, world history studies wrestles with
the entire range of relationships of which humans
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World history is also about intimate relationships. What was it like to
live in a small community of hunters and gatherers? Has the very nature of
human relationships changed over time? World History, in short, is about
what it means to be human, and, because of its scope, it raises these questions
in ways that other approaches to history usually do not because they look
at the past only on relatively small scales.