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History after HobsbawmWriting the Past for the Twenty-First Century$
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John H. Arnold, Matthew Hilton, and Jan Rüger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198768784

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2017

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198768784.001.0001

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Material Histories of the World

Material Histories of the World

Scales and Dynamics

(p.200) 11 Material Histories of the World
History after Hobsbawm

Frank Trentmann

Oxford University Press

The modern world has involved an unprecedented ballooning of stuff. How can historians make sense of this massive surge? This chapter offers some conceptual and methodological tools and suggestions. Instead of opting for either micro or macro histories, it argues that we need to move between these scales to capture, analyse, and explain the forces that drive greater consumption. The chapter links locally situated material culture with the aggregate global analysis of material flows. It discusses the influence of empire and political economy on taste, norms, and conventions and reflects on the dynamics of demand in contemporary societies by showing how everyday practices, energy systems, and networked infrastructures are interdependent and need to be studied together. It challenges a neat separation between demand and supply and calls on historians to straddle different spatial scales of the material world.

Keywords:   consumption, energy, everyday practice, infrastructure, material culture, material flow

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