Global history is getting a great deal of attention at present. In contrast with the old concepts of universal history and world history which devote a great deal of attention to the origin of civilisations and the transmission of cultural traditions, this new concept encompasses the history of human interaction which at present manifests itself in a highly complex world system. But global history is not limited to the most recent past. It attempts to integrate all fields of historical and anthropological research which contribute to an understanding of the dynamics of human interaction. It transcends national history but it does not neglect the nation state as a unit of international cooperation and conflict.
The Great Depression was an alarming phenomenon of the breakdown of cooperation among nation states which then led to global conflict. While most studies have concentrated on the advanced industrial countries of the world which produced the depression and were also considered to be its major victims, its global impact has hardly attracted any attention. Global historiography is still in its infancy, but this little book may serve as a contribution to this new venture.
The awareness of the global impact of the Great Depression dawned upon me when I was working on the history of agrarian relations in India. I was amazed at the problems faced by the Indian peasantry in the 1930s and found out that there were parallels elsewhere. Turning to Charles Kindleberger’s masterly survey The World in Depression I found hardly a trace of these problems in his account. In 1978 I sent the first paper which I had produced on ‘India in the Great Depression’ to him. He kindly replied that he knew next to nothing about Asia and encouraged me to go ahead with my work. I was puzzled by the general neglect