January 15, 2008




World System History







G. Modelski

Department of Political Science, University of Washington, USA


R.A. Denemark

Department of Political Science and International Relations, University of Delaware, USA


Keywords:   world system history, world system, world system process, transdisciplinarity,





1.  What is world system history?

      1.1  A set of questions

2.  Context, origins, and methods

3.   Fundamental processes

4.   The promise,  and the prospect






World system history is the study of the systematic relationships that linked the entire old world Afro-Eurasian system over the last 5000 years, and came to include the new world after 1492. That field comprises the nature of the world system, the manner in which we can apprehend it, and its relevant processes and its challenges. Combining the tools of social science with the long-term perspective, students of world system history have adopted both materialist and non-materialist orientations, have looked at the challenging nexus of the social and the natural world, and have explored evolutionary models. Among the fundamental processes in question we find capital accumulation, incorporation, communication and knowledge, trade, urbanization, economic and political cycles (of competition/hegemony), the growth of global public opinion and global democratization. World system history offers an array of tools with which to apprehend the future.  



1. What is World System History?


World system history is, of course, the study of the history of the world system. But each of these terms raises a host of questions; so let us put some flesh on the bare bones of this definition. 


An early attempt is A.G. Frank’s statement specifying that “By world system history I mean the systematically interrelated history of most of the ‘old world’ in Afro-Eurasia over at least the past 5,000 years. After 1492, the ‘new world’, and then the whole world was also incorporated into the same world system.” Here we have some of the essentials in greater detail: the search for systematic relationships, the long-term orientation – over 5,000 years, and concern for the whole world of humanity, what Frank called “humanocentricsm”.


A definition that takes its cue from the title of the Routledge (2000) volume that brought together the work of a group of scholars at Lund, Sweden in 1995 goes a little further.  That title reads: World System History: the Social Science of Long-term Change, adding to Frank’s statement the idea that World System History is grounded in the social sciences. That title was intended to reiterate the three most important characteristics of this body of knowledge in somewhat more general terms. 


WORLD:   that signifies a holistic or macro-analytic concern, a non-parochial, Big Picture conception that employs the whole of the human experience on earth as the object of inquiry and principal unit of analysis. This brings out connectivities and interdependencies without ignoring or dismissing agents;


SYSTEM:   that connotes both an empirical and a methodological predisposition. First, a system includes a variety of interconnected processes whose study cannot be contained within the purview of a single social science discipline. Concerns for system are necessarily transdisciplinary. Second, system connotes an anchoring in the concepts, practices and methodologies of the social sciences that tests conceptions of continuity, connectivity and interdependence against data;


HISTORY:  that asserts a dedication to a long-term view of some 5000 years, and to a diachronic stance with less emphasis on structures than on processes that might extend from the past into the future.


The nature of world system history suggests that its students can learn much from world history and the more traditional social sciences, and can also contribute to both. Grounded in the social sciences, with a self-conscious employment of concepts, data, and explanations, world system history is qualified to impart both the logic of empirical analysis and a less parochial attitude that embraces horizons that extend to all humans. Grounded in historical concerns, world system history is qualified to impart the longer-term and more fully integrated concerns of humanocentric analysis. Finally, its strongest feature might well be its capacity for future-orientation that is founded not only upon the commonsense insight that ‘history matters’ but also in the more up-to-date and sophisticated consideration that humankind has experienced developments and processes that show continuity, and that such knowledge might yield important pointers to the future.


1.1. A set of questions

What are the main questions addressed by World System History?


Is there a single world system? Students of world system history take the existence of the world system as fundamental, but are not hesitant to problematize this conclusion. Debate over the parameters of the world system is healthy as it provides a chance to illustrate the manner in which the perspective can shed light on a variety of socio-historical puzzles that continue to perplex scholars from other orientations. Nor is the debate settled within the world system history community. Questions remain as to how, when and where this single system arose, and what its antecedents might have been. 


What is the evidence for the existence of a single system? If a single world system does exist, how would we know? What constitutes evidence? How is it to be found and evaluated? The larger and more complex the system, the more difficult this task becomes, culminating in the most difficult challenges at the level of Big History (6.94.3).


What are the elements of the world system? The central question here concerns our ability to conceptualize the world system and to describe and analyze the processes that drive it over the long haul of world history. Early students of the world-system (note the hyphen and see 6.94.1) had an essentially materialist orientation that privileged processes of accumulation. The process of accumulation, and questions of its centrality, remains an important theme in much of world system history. Alternative macro-historical processes include tendencies toward the creation of civilizations (“States Systems and Universal Empires”) and the role of evolution.  Is the entire process best conceived in terms of continuity (“One World System or Many?”)? Along with such broad-scale processes we find concern with a series of global processes including those relevant to the integration of areas into the world system (“Incorporating North America”), hegemony, urbanization, Kondratieff waves, and other forms of cyclical regularity (“Epistemology”), the emergence of global public opinion, and democratization.


What challenges confront the world system? Tendencies that are noted have a variety of limits and vulnerabilities. Prominent among them is the threat to human survival posed by global warfare, that has been a distinct feature of the past millennium, and now poses the challenge of nuclear exchange among the great powers. History is also punctuated by serious decline and Dark Ages. Questions as to whether such periods are endogenous to the working of the system are important. If endogenous, are they driven directly by human actions (deforestation, global warming), might they be the result of natural phenomena (volcanism), or perhaps these dynamics contain elements of both (as in the case of the Bubonic Plague or HIV/AIDS).  


What light does World System History shed on the future? 

If humankind on earth is not an arena of random events or chaotic conjunctions, but rather one whose trajectory shows significant elements of order, and continuity of process, one that exhibits growth in scope, depth and complexity over recorded history, then we might also say that humanity exhibits a significant degree of self-organization. Is humanity self-organizing? If so, can our understandings of processes like evolution and complexity help us to understand its trajectories?



2. Context, origins, and methods


The urge to write world history and to learn from it is hardly new. It probably is as old as the writing of history itself. Polybius (d. c.-120), or Si-ma Qian (d. c.-90) recounted the rise of the Roman, and Chinese world empires respectively. Juvaini (d.1283) told the story of the world-conquering Mongol Khans. These were histories of world empires.  More recently, history assigned a privileged place to the nation-state; the past was recast in terms of national units that might have been unrecognized in their time, and more contemporary issues were recounted in terms of independent national units. This rather narrow and arbitrary mode of organizing both history and the social sciences has many pitfalls, as has been recognized by various scholars even as the process was ongoing. For Leopold von Ranke – frequently cited by A.G. Frank – “there is no history but world history”. So we need hardly be surprised by new forays in that direction. 


Our modern world also saw the rise of the social sciences. Prompted by Immanuel Kant’s plea for a ‘universal history’, sociologists such as Auguste Comte, Herbert Spencer and Alfred Weber, as well as political economist Karl Marx, sought to devise schemes that would account for, and explain global-level social processes. The 20th century brought more abundant data, concern for more sophisticated methods, and continued, though fluctuating, interest in new conceptualizations, including those around the notion of ‘system’, whether conceived in economic, political, social or international terms. 


Drawing on these developments, the post-1945 world enjoyed a great flourishing of academic learning, and the social sciences were part of this. But great though that flourishing was, it also had some characteristics that called for close scrutiny, and in time, critics came to see in it some important flaws. For one, the social sciences had come to be organized as autonomous fields, with little relation to each other. This was an unforeseen (and unnecessary) byproduct of their original rationale. The complex nature of the global system, and the need to understand policy options and place them on a more scientific footing, led to differentiation and focus. As a result, each vector of social inquiry devised its own terminology, celebrated its own luminaries, was vulnerable to its unique set of ‘external’ interests and undertook its own methodological debates. Institutional pressures existed as well, providing incentives for analytical separations that would justify independent resources (in current terms, departmental status and tenure lines). The result was a set of decidedly isolated disciplines set among, and attempting to decipher, decidedly integrated social processes.


Second, the privileged unit of analysis for economics, political science, sociology or even history was the national economy, or the nation state, or the national society. Political borders rarely contain social processes, yet they were treated as real, if not impermeable. The resulting analyses were biased toward the experience of but a small part of the world, but served as the foundations for broad generalizations nonetheless.  


Third, the field of analysis tended to be confined to Europe and the European experience, a tendency that came to be known as Eurocentrism. And lastly, the social sciences suffered from lack of historical depth. They had been created to provide some empirical foundation to the problems of policy-making, and as a result their focus on current events was only rarely informed by the provision of an historical context within which contemporary activities make sense (“Big History”, “Epistemology”).  


In the second half of the 20th century, two works of world history might be singled out as examples marking the way forward. William McNeill’s The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community firmly held to a continuous narrative at a planetary level of analysis, avoided overweighting Europe; covered all areas of the world system, and drew on the social sciences. Its overall conception yielded a strong sequence of ancient, classical, and modern eras of world history. McNeill furthered these tendencies when he suggested that in retrospect, he would have strengthened his treatment of the interactions among various regions of the world system, especially in light of work on networks of (global) communication. The third volume of Fernand Braudel’s three-volume Civilisation materielle, economie et capitalisme: XVe-XVIIIe siecle [Civilization and Capitalism, 15th – 18th Century] was titled Les Temps du Monde [The Perspective of the World] and effectively produced a sweeping vision of emerging modern civilization from the perspective of economic history. He offered an account of ‘world time’ that included a spectrum of economic cycles of different though related periodicities in the European world-economy.


 In The Modern World-System (of which the first volume appeared in 1974) sociologist Immanuel Wallerstein put the concept of ‘world-system’ firmly on the agenda of the social and human sciences. The work tapped fully into historical debates, pursued a trans-disciplinary approach, adopted a global perspective, and espoused a materialist point of view. But it also chose a stance that treated the modern era beginning with ‘the long 16th century’ as a period sui generis, characterized by the newly formed capitalism and, unlike other systems (e.g. world-empires, etc.), by the need for continuous capital accumulation, as well as by its own laws of development. Other world-systems (notice the hyphenation) would be subject to their own forms of regularity, but these remained to be specified in detail. For Wallerstein, the steadily expanding European capitalist world-system was the most coherent unit of analysis and measurement for social relations (“World-Systems Analysis”). 


In response, and opening a ‘continuity’ debate (6.94.6), economist Andre Gunder Frank offered a broader conception, one that he first put forward in “A Plea for World System History” in a 1991 article in the newly founded Journal of World History. This was elaborated on in a volume co-edited with Barry Gills titled The World System: Five Hundred Years or Five Thousand? Frank argued for less Eurocentricity, maintaining that the world system’s development (including such features as center-periphery structures, and economic and political cycles) can be traced as far back as 5000 years, even though some systems did have their own existence, as in the American case, prior to 1492.


This broader conception was put to a test in a conference that met at Lund University in 1995 (publication in 2000). The major theoretical statements offered at the conference aligned in two dimensions: some assumed a ‘one world system’ position, while others, more comparatively inclined, spoke of worlds systems in the plural. The other dimension concerned preferences for a materialist interpretation of social affairs, while others, without neglecting it, opted for a more integrated conception. Schematically, these positions may be represented in this simple table.



One world system

World systems


Frank, Gills

Chase-Dunn, Hall





The plural ‘world systems’ position echoes the civilizational theories of the first half of the 20th century such as those of Spengler and Toynbee, and draws strength too from Braudel. The ‘one world system’ stance is closer to McNeill’s account of world history but is compatible with a recognition of the autonomy of i.a. the Americas in the pre-Columbian age. The materialist/non-materialist distinction is a reminder of the strength of an economic-class interpretation of history, but should not be taken to mean that ‘non-materialist’ positions ignore material life. All sides agree on the importance of connections such as trade links (6.94.12). Overall, the differences should not be overestimated. There is much in common in these approaches, they all basically agree that something like a world system has now been in evidence for at least a millennium if not much longer. All of these approaches are accommodated within World System History.


Another conference convened at Lund University in 2003 (publication in 2007), and focused this time on World System/Earth System interactions. At its broadest, this was an effort to capture humanity’s relation to the natural world, to bring together the social and the natural worlds, including the social and the natural sciences. While social scientists strive to explain how human societies are connected in a world system, the ecologists have sought to understand how ecosystems are linked together in a dynamic entity that consists of strongly interacting processes and cycles of a biogeochemical nature. They may both find that the concept of ‘system’ is a way of bridging these two domains. The climate clearly has conditioned the human experience on the planet but hardly in a simple deterministic way, and the way humans are organized in turn has shaped the climate throughout world system history.


The long-range perspective that world system history affords is also fruitful in the study of globalization. A conference held at the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Austria on ‘Globalization as Evolutionary Process’ in 2006 (publication in 2008) brought together a transdisciplinary group of experts  developing a framework for understanding the origins and  trajectory of world trends, constructing testable and verifiable models of globalization. An evolutionary approach makes possible viewing globalization as the far-flung enterprise of a human species that is capable of learning. The emphasis is on processes such as political evolution, the information revolution, the emerging global community, and the making of world opinion, on processes that reshape human organization and the innovations that have animated these developments over the long-run of world system history.


In all of the major statements of world system history there is an undercurrent of, and an undergirding by, empirical analysis. Human historical experience provides the materials which students of world system history seek to understand. There is an element here of naïve empiricism that manifests itself in the belief that ideas can be formulated and evaluated relative to their correspondence with broader historical evidence. But students of world system history are also well aware that neither information nor ideas are ever devoid of bias. The list of possible elements of bias is long, but recognition that such distortions exist, and the use of various mechanisms designed to help avoid them, are fundamental to the methods adopted by world system history (“Epistemology”).  


There is also a critical element to this perspective. Critical theory aims at emancipation, first by rendering transparent the coercion inherent in various social system. No social discipline can separate itself wholly from the desire for power and influence, but a truth-oriented search for knowledge promises us a powerful tool in our search for understanding.   


3. Fundamental Processes


Central to the study of world system history are the concepts of world system and its processes, conjectures about the motor forces driving these processes, and methods of understanding these.    


The central concept is that of the world system viewed as the social organization of humankind. ‘Social organization’, in this context, refers to the array of institutions, rules and other arrangements humans have employed to manage their coexistence on this planet. This world system might have a discernible point of origin but it was not built in a day, and is continuing to be built: it is in fact a work in progress that has no obvious end. What we have observed so far in relation to it is system-building that is likely to continue into the foreseeable future.


The debate that generated world system history concerned the question of when this system-building began. That is, where in time do we fix the origin of this process, and its fruition? Much of the early literature on this question was generated in response to Wallerstein’s proposition that the world-system begins with the consolidation of the capitalist world-economy during ‘the long 16th century’ (6.94.1). In contrast, Wilkinson, who adopts ‘civilizations’ as his units of analysis (“States Systems and Universal Empires”), would place the creation of central civilization some 3000 years earlier with the consolidation of the remaining civilizations (and the promise of the quick integration of the New World in its wake), into a single globe-spanning central civilization. Frank and Gills reviewed the historical record and sought to push the idea of a coherent world system back some 5000 years with developments in West Asia that Gordon Childe called ‘the urban revolution’, coinciding with the invention and use of writing: two conditions without which a world system would not be operable. Recognizable links (political and economic) are both to be found and to be sought from this perspective. Frank carefully dissects Wallerstein’s definitional elements of the capitalist world-economy, and finds that all were present long before the allegedly critical ‘long 16th century’.


Frank raised the stakes considerably by proposing that the entire idea of capitalism as a unique modern mode of production was an historical error. Capitalism exists, but it is a Eurocentric overstatement to suggest that it was unique, that the entire world system was to be dominated by its logic, or that the contradictions inherent in capitalism would bring its demise and usher in new modes of production for the world system. His argument, that there was far more continuity than change in world system history, has been dubbed ‘the continuity hypothesis’ (“One World System or Many?”).    


At this point Chase-Dunn and Hall part company with Frank. From their perspective, capitalism is a very real and a very powerful mode of production, and the entire world system was clearly altered in its wake.  But the study of historical world systems (world-systems analysis) has a unique role to play in the study of world system history. The comparative method is powerful, and a review of early communities, island cultures and historically separate areas (mostly of the New World) provide the fodder for a useful analysis of world system elements that are truly unique. Chase-Dunn and Hall further challenge the continuity hypothesis with the suggestion that many of the processes it identifies have been evident in global social formations for as many as 10 000 years.


Lurking just below the surface of these arguments is a debate about the motor driving all of these relevant processes (but not necessarily all of world history). For Wallerstein, it is the absolute requirement for the accumulation of capital that drives the modern capitalist world-economy. For Frank and Gills, however, the driving force is a more general process of capital accumulation. But does the materialist approach do justice to the complexities of world system evolution?


Arguably, a more general conception is that of evolutionary learning as motor of world system history (though not of all world history). Broadly speaking, if the world system is the ‘capital asset’ of humankind, then learning, as innovative system-building would comprise not just the creation of physical and human capital in the economy but also of institutional capital in the polity, of social capital (as the glue of society), and of culture (the store of information that controls world system processes).


Clearly, there is room for debate about the past, but what is also certain in that the world system continues to develop into the future. The main point being that we are dealing with the same system over a long stretch of world time.


Whatever the starting date, this developing, dynamic aspect of the world system directs attention to the processes that actuate that development. Here we find an array of processes that fall into four broad categories: economic, political, social, and cultural.  Primary among these is the integration of new areas into the world system. While analytically distinguished it is also demonstrable that these several processes occur in tandem, displaying some unexpected regularities. In this regard, Tom Hall (6.94.24) is especially concerned that our understanding of integration proceeds in a sophisticated manner. Existing historical accounts of interactions with ‘first peoples’ are rarely cognizant of the fact that the ‘tribes’ they consider have already been tainted, and are perhaps even the complete creation of longstanding process of integration. The social, ecological and epidemiological implications of the incorporation of new populations are an important part of world system history. 


Among the most important processes that unify a world system, relations of trade are particularly important. The best known early example of the pervasive nature of trade relations can be found with reference to the “Silk Roads” that tied Japan and Korea to China, then extended through Central Asia and India (and including here Arabia and East Africa), extended to the Eastern Mediterranean, eventually connecting with North Africa and much of Europe. The ‘Silk Road’ enjoyed its efflorescence between 100 BCE and 1350 CE. The scope and scale of the interactions that took place across these routes tied the system together in a myriad of non-trivial ways. Trade has emerged as a central world system process in a variety of contexts. As Modelski and Thompson note, trade in various locations and for various goods constitutes some of the important periodic waves of ‘innovations’ that drive the world system. 


In yet another dimension, the history of the world system is the record of the steady, though hardly linear, long-run build-up of wider communities. Basically important is the story of urbanization, of increasing numbers of a growing population learning to live in close proximity, at higher levels of cooperation, hence also productivity and security (“World Urbanization”). We know that the story is not a linear one of progress because it includes two or more prominent instances of Dark Ages in which communities seemed to shatter, and center-hinterland relations were undergoing reorganization amidst tumultuous transformations. But the building of cities to serve as the nodal points of civilizations, creating a critical mass of individuals to generate ideas and innovations, fostering production and encouraging trade, is central to nearly every conceptualization of world system history. 


The economic processes that follow in the wake of the development of a system are both evidence of its existence and important clues as to the nature of its functioning. Kondratieff (or K-) waves are the most generally known of the energetic processes that make up modern economic development and the emergence of a globalized economy.  They are traceable as a succession of leading industrial sectors founded upon system-building innovations. Modelski and Thompson’s Leading Sectors and World Powers: the Co-evolution of Global Politics and Economics trace their interaction with global politics in the modern era. 


K-waves are one of a number of cyclical processes that inhabit world system history, and this raises some methodological challenges. How can we understand social cycles and at the same time leave room for human agency, and perhaps even progress. The problems associated with determinism are many, and include the aperceptual or acontextual or ahistorical codification of processes that are in fact bounded by individual, social and/or historical forces, and the self-fulfilling nature of predictions based on some alleged ‘law of history’ that is used as a justification to demobilize opposition. A review of key works in world system history shows no traces of these maladies (“Epistemology”). The cyclical processes in areas like population growth, leadership, global finance, social movements, and certain ecological phenomena are well understood by scholars of various perspectives, while students of world system history accept the challenge of explaining these processes..     


Another element of world system development is the relationship that emerges between hegemony and rivalry. Hegemony is usually conceived as the acquisition of sufficient power to unilaterally determine the rules of the system. In the classical era, it was the alternation of “States systems and Universal Empires” that structured regional politics. And it is within systems of states that hegemons emerged, i.a. in the Sumerian, Greek and Hellenistic, China’s Spring and Autumn, and early Indian systems. In the modern political realm, the prominent process has been what at times is referred to as ‘hegemonic cycles’ that map the successive exercise of global power. In the West European era , such actors have been identified as the Dutch Republic and Britain;  more recently the United States has been so described. 


Hegemony may be contrasted with periods of ‘rivalry’ during which no actor is powerful enough to determine the rules of the system. Periods of hegemony are ripe for global organization, as the dominant society imposes order in support of its growth and stability. Periods of rivalry are usually more competitive across the full range of socio-political and economic variables. This is another controversial topic in world system history. Wilkinson reserves the term for the most unique experiences, while a more regional utilization of the term is adopted by Gills, who then introduces ‘super-hegemony’ to represent more global-level control. Modelski and Thompson are long on the record as preferring concepts like ‘leadership’ and long cycles of global politics that drive the political evolution of system-building at the global level.


Lastly, we need to be alert to the very long trends in the consolidation of an information-rich cultural basis for the world system that resides primarily in the world of learning centered on education and libraries, and in the media. The “Rise of Global Public Opinion” is one indicator of the increasing saliency of such a base. The ‘Information Revolution’ lays down the technological foundations.


In the modern era we may also document the persistent build-up of democratization that over the long haul holds the promise of a more cooperative world system. Democratization appears as a world system process against the background of an 800 year history. Democracy offers both internal and external advantages, and though it has undergone a variety of advances and setbacks, the longest-term trend seems to be upward. As Green indicates (in “Democratization”), by the 1990s democracy had been selected as the system of choice for the majority of the world’s population for the first time in recorded history. 


4. The promise, and the prospect


Among the promises of world system history is its ability to be forward-looking. The growth of democracy, for example, is one of the predictions that world system history has to offer. The generative questions, puzzles, methods and proposed dynamics of this perspective point in a number of important directions. Evolutionary analysis is especially helpful in this regard. The tracing of global challenges, the myriad of responses, and the identification of those that have been successfully selected offer a powerful tool in identifying its most enduring characteristics and in understanding the direction of fundamental change. This future orientation is hampered by many challenges, not the least of which include the tendency to confuse secular trends with cyclical behavior, and the ability of exogenous (especially ecological) variables to intervene. But the study of world system futures is in its infancy, and further analysis holds the promise of significant intellectual advancement.


World System History may be viewed as a bridge that spans the gap between world history, and the study of world organization that might also be seen, more generally, as one of the links between the humanities and the social sciences.  We have shown earlier that it is indeed capable of informing the social sciences, and in particular economics and economic history, political science and international relations, and sociology, of the depth of experiences that they can tap in analyzing social arrangements at various points in time, putting flesh on the bare bones of the analysis of such lofty concepts as the structure of the world system, or key event-sequences such as political evolution or urbanization.


On the other side, world system history also is in a position to sharpen standard or even specialized accounts of world history. Avoiding the hubris of pronouncing “universal laws of history” it brings to life long-term economic and political trends and gives meaning to global institutional developments. While concepts such as cycles and processes remain subject to controversy, they will, with effective testing, enable a disciplined, long-range thinking not just about the past but also about the future. World System History has the capacity for organizing thought about TIME – the strategic element in all of history.


Does it have legs?  Will it endure?  Some of the original ingredients of World System History – its planetary scope, and its escape from Eurocentricity, are now increasingly becoming commonplace.  World history is making rapid strides on a broad front, and social sciences, too, are enlarging their vision and working to attain global reach.  But the interplay between world history and the social sciences will not suddenly come to a stop; it is likely to continue as far as we can see. The need for a sound bridge between these two broad strands of insight into human affairs will remain.




Abu-Lughod, J.   (1989).   Before European Hegemony:  The World System 1250-1350,   New York:  Oxford University Press.  [A rich description of one hundred years of  the “old world” system]. 


Denemark, R.   (1999).   World System History:  From Traditional International Politics to the Study of Global Relations,  Prospects for International Relations: Conjectures about the Next Millennium  (ed. D.Bobrow), pp. 43-76.  Malden MA: Blackwell.  [A broader perspective for the study of International Relations].


Denemark, R., J. Friedman, B.H. Gills, and G. Modelski  eds.,  (2000).   World System History: The social science of long-term change,   New York:  Routledge.  [Presents four major approaches and their critiques].


Frank, A.G.   (1991).   A Plea for World System History, Journal of World History, II:1-28.  [The initial case for, and definition of, the field]. 


Frank, A.G.  (1994).  World System History.  Paper presented to the annual meeting of The New England Historical Association, Waltham MA.  Online at http://hartford-hwp.com/archives/10/034.html.  Last accessed January 9, 2008.  [Brings together pieces of a variety of works to define and explain world system history].


Frank, A.G.   (1998).   Re-Orient: Global Economy in the Asian Age,   Berkeley:  University of California Press.  [Argues for the centrality of China in the world economy prior to 1800].


Frank, A.G.  and B.H. Gills eds.  (1993).   The World System:  Five Hundred Years or Five Thousand?,  London:  Routledge.  [A statement of the continuity thesis, and responses to it].


Hornborg, A. and C. Crumley eds.   (2007).   The World System and the Earth System: Global Socio-environmental Change and Sustainability since the Neolithic,   Walnut Creek, CA:  Left Coast Press.  [Recent studies of “Nature-society” interactions in long perspective].


Modelski, G.   (2003).  World Cities: -3000 to 2000,   Washington:   Faros2000.   [An inventory of major cities, shows systematic changes in the scale of urbanization from the ancient, through classical, to the modern eras].


Modelski, G. and W.R. Thompson   (1997).   Leading Sectors and World Powers:  The Co-evolution of Global Politics and Economics,  Columbia:  University of South Carolina Press.  [Growth of the modern global economy as driven by a succession of leading industrial sectors, interacting with world politics].


Modelski, G., T. Devezas and W.R. Thompson eds.   (2008).  Globalization as Evolutionary Process: Modeling Global Change,   London and New York:   Routledge.   [Globalization in a long-term perspective].   


Wallerstein, I.   (1974, 1980, 1989).   The Modern World- System. vols.1-3;  New York:  Academic Press.  [A full-scale review of the working of the “European world-economy” from the “long” 16th century onward].





World System History: The study, undertaken primarily with the tools of social science, of  most of the ‘old world’ in Afro-Eurasia over at least the past 5,000 years.  After 1492, the ‘new world’, and then the whole world was also incorporated into the same world system.” It is the complex mechanism with which humans seek to meet the challenges of continued existence.





George Modelski is Professor Emeritus, Political Science, University of Washington.   His most recent books are World Cities:-3000 to 2000 (2003), and Globalization as Evolutionary Process (2008) that he co-edited.  He maintains a web-site on "Evolutionary World Politics" at http://faculty.washington.edu/modelski/.


Robert A. Denemark is in the faculty of political science at the University of Delaware. He is co-editor (with G. Modelski, B. Gills and J. Friedman) of World System History: The Social Science of Long-Term Change and General Editor of The Compendium Project of the International Studies Association.