The coding was done by Luke Clossey and Nicholas Guyatt, aided by four research assistants in Vancouver: thanks and kudos to Jun Chang, Kyle Jackson, Ozren Jungic and Jenny Shutek. Entries were checked carefully, and ambiguous cases were the subject of particularly long discussions. We sampled between fifteen and twenty History departments from each country, and used the crude metric of academic rankings to select specific institutions. (Drawing upon US News and World Report for the US; Macleans for Canada; and the UK government’s 2008 Research Assessment Exercise for Britain.)
Where an historian’s research crossed regional boundaries, we divided their classification accordingly. For example, an historian of France would receive a score of 1.0 Europe; while an historian of France who had worked roughly equally on the history of Mali would receive a score of 0.5 Europe, 0.5 Sub-Saharan Africa. Historians working across several regions would produce more creative allocations; in reaching decisions about exactly how to allocate this score, we moved beyond faculty webpages to consult written work directly.
Historians don’t always observe neat national boundaries. How to account for the scholar who studies British missionaries in India, or patterns of Lebanese migration to Mexico, or American marines in Afghanistan? Some historians work principally on the engagement of a specific nation with the rest of the world: for example, a scholar might work on British relations with France, or on American foreign policy, or on China’s relationship with Africa.
We (respectfully) referred to these historians as “troublemakers,” and tried to be fair and consistent in fitting them into our survey terms. In general, they fell into three categories, identified by the following questions:
1. Does a scholar place enough emphasis on a particular country/region to be considered an historian of that region outright?
For example, an historian interested in the interaction between British missionaries and local people in India, working with English-language and Hindi sources, might receive 0.5 UK, 0.5 South Asia in our survey. (The precise weighting would depend on the balance of this emphasis across their published career.)
2. Does a scholar attempt to uncover the experiences of their actors through other languages?
For example, an historian principally interested in British missionaries might nonetheless use local language sources to describe their subject. Assuming that this historian wasn’t significantly interested in the experience of South Asian people themselves, we would code them as 1.0 UK adding a “++” to keep track of their international focus and language skill.
3. Does a scholar principally focus on protagonists from their ‘home’ country using their ‘home’ language?
For example, our historian of British missionaries in India might only be interested in British missionaries, and might only use English sources to retrieve their experience. In this instance, we coded them as 1.0 UK, adding a “+” to reflect their interest in British people in overseas contexts.
We tried to err on the side of caution in recognizing wider-world history in these contexts: if a scholar could plausibly be described as a historian of, say, South Asia and of the UK, we awarded a split between these categories. But we also kept track of those “+” and “++” historians. When we aggregate the figures for all three countries in our sample (US, UK, Canada), we discover that 23% of historians working on British, American or Canadian history had some interest in the relationship between their country of expertise and other countries. However, three caveats obtain here:
* We awarded a “+” or “++” to anyone with any demonstrable interest in foreign relations, the “history of country x in the world,” etc. So the bar was set quite low.
* The number of historians in the “++” category was very small indeed.
* Most historians who received a “+” or “++” were working on interactions between countries within the developed world. So although we might think that this world of boundary-hopping historians is as exotic as the opening paragraph above, it is still much more common to encounter scholars working on British relations with France, or American relations with Russia, than to find historians studying the influence of Indian migrant workers in the Gulf States, for example. In other words, the evidence of curiosity that we tracked with a “+” or “++” doesn’t significantly impact our findings on the relative lack of wider-world historical work in the UK, US and Canada.