Publication Details

Melleuish, G, How do we get the place of Europe in world history right?, in Mees, B and Koehne, S, eds, Terror War Tradition, Australian Humanities Press, Unley, 2007, 379-394.


One of the great insults of the contemporary historical world is the term ‘Eurocentric’. It is invariably combined with notions of European imperialism and the supposed desire of Europe to dominate the world. In fact the term ‘Eurocentric’ can have a fairly innocuous meaning, denoting no more than the simple observation that the terminology and periodisation that we use to describe European history may not have any relevance when we are dealing with non- European civilisations. For example what does ‘pre-modern’ mean in a Chinese context where many of the features of European modernity have been present for over a thousand years?1 It is important to get the place of Europe in world history right. To use terms derived from the Australian experience, neither the ‘black arm band’ nor the ‘three cheers’ views of European history provide any real insight into its nature. One should neither belittle the European achievement nor attempt to exaggerate its significance. Only when Europe is placed in a proper world context will this be possible.