‘Regional History in a Global Context’
The central theme of the 2024 Posthumus Conference is ‘Regional History in a Global Context’.
Regional history has traditionally been in the periphery for many (although not all) social and economic historians. Despite Sidney Pollard’s claim that the British Industrial Revolution was a regional rather than a national phenomenon, economic historians have frequently tended to focus on the national level, while social historians often preferred to study local communities.
Recently attention for the region as unit of research in social and economic history has been growing. New methods for studying the economic development of regions have been developed, such as the quantitative analysis of historical regional accounts and the calculation of the Gross Regional Product. Familiar topics of social history, such as labour and labour conditions, gender and mobility were found to have regional as well as local dimensions, while for the relatively new field of the historical interactions between man and environment the region turned out to be a highly suitable level of research.
Regions, obviously, have never been isolated: they have always functioned in a wider context. Commercial and cultural exchange on an interregional but increasingly also on a global scale affected daily life and economic opportunities of regions everywhere. Relations between regions changed continuously because of shifts in commercial networks, the availability of human capital, investment policies and transport facilities, technical developments and new divisions of labour. Some regional economies grew into drivers of a global trade, or acted as focal points for migration on a global scale. Others coped with economic and demographic demise and had to adapt to global changes. As a result, borders of regions also changed, as did regional identities.
The interaction between the global and the regional level is a highly relevant issue in today’s world. In keeping with the interest in ‘glocal history’, it also deserves the attention of social and economic historians.