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What do the history of the universe, the collapse of great civilizations, the 'rise of the West,' and the history of warfare have in common? Although these subjects may at first seem unrelated, in the context of world history they share a common goal: to understand the issue or problem under study in its widest global context. Indeed, the ability of world history to bring such a diversity of interests into dialogue is one of the most exciting features of the field. And while world historians may not be united by a focus on a particular region or era, we are drawn together by the desire to understand the past in terms of connections, comparisons, and linkages across both time and space. As Eric Martin aptly puts it in his article featured in this issue, world history represents a particular "way of thinking" that allows its practitioners to answer "big questions" about a wide variety of complex, global processes. 1
    The essays assembled here also point to the ways that world history has been influenced by scholars outside the discipline of history. A case in point is Jared Diamond, who gave WHC an interview for this issue. Although Diamond is a scientist, his long-term, global perspective on the past in his two most recent books—Guns, Germs, and Steel (1999) and Collapse (2004)—has made a deep impression on the field. Likewise Fred Spier, noted author of The Structure of Big History (1996) and also featured in this issue, comes to history from a scientific background. In fact, Spier argues it was his scientific background that caused him to think in global terms in the first place, since it gave him the tools to conceive of an "integrated history of the world, of life, humanity, and the universe." Interestingly, and perhaps alarmingly, both Diamond and Spier emphasize that of all the academics who engage with their work, historians tend to be the most reluctant to take a long view of the past, and are the least interested in scientific ideas more generally. If this is the case, world historians may do well to redouble their efforts to keep the lines of communication open between history and the various scientific disciplines.
    The problem of "lines of communication" is also the focus of several other essays in this issue, albeit in different ways. For example, Peter Stearns offers a look at the current divide between social history and world history, and offers a way forward on how the two fields might mutually benefit from closer collaboration. Wendy and Bill Bravman, in contrast, focus on the disjuncture between the history and theory of warfare and world history instruction in the classroom, and offer some fruitful ways to address the problem. Meanwhile, Corey Johnson and Alice Spitzer focus on the need to build bridges between the world history classroom and libraries.
    In addition to these featured articles, this issue also includes the first of what we hope will be many scholarly exchanges between scholars with differing views about the world's past. In this case, Ricardo Duchesne and Peer Vries exchange views about the nature of the "rise of the West"—surely one of the most critical debates in the field today. 4
    As always, this issue also features our outstanding regular columns, including a masterful exposition of Viet Nam in world history by Marc Gilbert, an exploration of George Mason University's "World History Matters" website by Wendy Eagan, and a guest column by Mary Jane Maxwell of Washington State University. Readers will also find a number of book reviews relevant to studying and teaching world history.
    Finally, this issue also features a tribute to Andre Gunder Frank, who recently passed away after an extended illness. It is written by Jeff Sommers, a friend and former student. As Jeff rightly points out, although Gunder Frank was often controversial and was frequently outspoken, his contributions to academia in general—and world history in particular—were enormous, and his voice will be missed. 6

Heather Streets, co-editor

Tom Laichas, co-editor

Tim Weston, associate editor


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