This review is hard to write as I’m summarizing a summary of a history that spans the globe from early civilization to the present in only 150 pages. The authors did an amazing job. Each paragraph is close to a page long and is a brief summary of a huge idea that could be a book in itself. [For example there’s a paragraph about when America became an Agricultural giant, the technology and practices that encouraged it, the role of the British Corn Laws of 1846, and how this effected diets and farmers across the world. That’s one paragraph.] To make it easier to read I’ll do 4 points per topic and bold the one I believe is the most important.

Facts about the book

1.The book is Globalization: a short history by Jurgen Osterhammel and Niels P. Peterson, translated by Dona Geyer Princeton University Press, 2005 ISBN:978-0-691-13395-9. It is somehow much bigger on the inside than the outside. The best analogy is an ice cream cone: Its really good but if you go too quickly you will get a headache.

icecream cone


2. The book is divided into 7 chapters including one devoted solely to describing the term and one devoted to the limitations of the book. The other 5 are divided by eras of development: pre-1750, 1750-1880, 1880-1945, 1945-1970’s and 1970-present. This makes it easy to refer back to when I underlined on almost every page as sticky notes weren’t cutting it.

3. The authors stress the book is very limited due to it’s length and they skimmed past pre-1750 because its all set up for the juicy stuff later and while the foundations may have started then the effects didn’t.

4. The only information I could find about the translator, Dona Geyer, was on which looks like a German version of Linkedin. That’s a great example of their view on globalization, but Ill get there in the next list.

What’s the book about?

1. Exactly what it says: A short history of globalization.

2. What form globalization took in each era. Specifically how did the connection take place and what maintained it. Steamboats, the telegraph, lower trade barriers, airplanes, division of labor (country specialty), exploration, exploitation etc…

3. What changes came about because of each eras globalization: Formation of the Nation-State, world wars, cultural exchange, increased science, which religion spread to new eras, the economic health of the populace, environmental effects etc…

4. The unique twist different countries put on globalization or was put on them by globalization. The main idea of the book is that while everyone is effected by globalization no one has the same experience. Britain had a very different experience from Japan and each country’s culture adapted in a unique way. So while Facebook may be everywhere Germany and the US have different business networking sites that function differently and are subject to different laws and norms. 

Pros and Cons

1. Pro: It does a good job of providing a brief, but detailed, picture of what globalization means, its causes and effects.

Con: You start to get interested in a topic and you’re off to the next.

2. Con/Pro: Its a very Eurocentric point of view. Given that Europe provided the main push it would be hard to study the history with out focusing on Europe. Its also interesting to see US history from a European perspective. On the other hand very little attention is paid to anyone outside the US, Europe (not Russia) and Japan.

3. Pro: It is full of interesting facts/theories: American mass media was popular around the world because the multicultural makeup of the country required our entertainment to appeal to a wide variety of people. Women’s suffrage was boosted by the close relationship between countries. The telegraph made communication over 10,000x faster (the alternative was the mail).



Now I can get the news that I still can’t vote so much faster!

Con: Every paragraph has a neat fact or an expansion of something you thought you already knew. It’s so much that you can’t recall much of it after its done.

4. Pro: The writing is easy to read. While its dense and definitely college level the majority of the book avoids jargon and explains most of the words it uses…

Con: …Until the last two chapters and the rise of multinational corporations…or are they transnational…or international…or supranational?

Big Picture

1.The book touches very, very briefly on just about everything we have discussed and hundreds of other things. I don’t know as it has a particular revelation about any of them other than a repeated emphasis on the influence of culture changing the nature of an economy. It’s that you can’t the trees for the forest.


Which of you is healthcare?*

It’s a wide, overhead view that while not specific to our class provides many examples of different countries’ interactions with the ever changing system. There’s a decent sized bit about communism and capitalism but it is less about how they worked than what effect their rivalry had on slowing globalization.

2. There wasn’t anything that I really wanted to argue with or anything I wish they had cut out. Which is weird as I’m always hypercritical about everything. They did a great job of providing solid facts and stringing them together in a logical way.

3. My thinking was definitely expanded by this book. I used to think of globalization as an inevitable force sweeping us all along towards something (probably a cliff) but this book shows that there is no guarantee that it will continue in this trajectory. Actually the only consistency is that globalization’s form is always changing. 

4. Read it. Read it slowly. 5 pages at a time. Its a great book to read in 5-20 minute chunks. Read, digest, think. Don’t plow through it.