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World History: World-Economy or a Set of Sets?

  • R. I. Moore


The recent books by K. N. Chaudhuri and Janet Abu-Lughod are testimony to the rapidly rising interest in comparative world history in the last few years, and both make notable contributions to it. Both are heavily laden with theory, and both firmly repudiate the view that modern world history can be expounded in terms of what happened (or didn't happen) in western Europe around and after 1500.



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1 Chaudhuri, K.N., Asia before Europe. Economy and Civilisation of the Indian Ocean from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge University Press, 1990), pp. xviii+477, front., 80 illus., 17 maps. £50.00 (cloth), £14.95 (paperback). Abu-Lughod, Janet L., Before European Hegemony. The World System A.D. 1230–1350 (Oxford University Press, 1989), pp. xvii+443, 15 figs. £28.00.

2 Abu-Lughod, Janet L., Cairo: 1001 years of the City Victorious (Princeton, 1971).

3 Wallerstein, Immanuel, The Modern World-System: i, Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (New York, 1974); ii, Mercantilism and the Consolidation of the European World-Economy, 1600–1750 (1980); iii, The Second Era of Great Expansion of the Capitalist World-Economy, 1730–1840S (1989).

4 Braudel, Fernand, Civilization and Capitalism, 15th–18th Century trans. Reynolds, Sian, i: The Structures of Everyday Life (London, 1985); ii, The Wheels of Commerce (1982); iii, The Perspective of the World (1984); on Wallerstein (whose second volume is dedicated to Braudel) and world-economies see iii, pp. 45–91.

5 Wallerstein, , i, pp. 1516.

6 idem, iii, pp. 137–40.

7 Braudel, whose influence on Chaudhuri is so great, uses the language of set theory in the discussion of Wallerstein mentioned above (n. 3) and elsewhere, notably and effectively in the concluding chapter of vol. ii, “Society: ‘A Set of Sets’” (pp. 458–599), but he did not propose or elaborate it as a general basis for historical method.


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