CFP: Toward a Global History of Economic Transfer: Commodities, Commodity Chains, and Processes of Economic Innovation

February 6, 2020

Call for Papers

Toward a Global History of Economic Transfer:
Commodities, Commodity Chains, and Processes of Economic Innovation

A Conference co-organized by East China Normal University (ECNU), Shanghai, and the Weatherhead Initiative for Global History (WIGH), Harvard University, USA
October 13-15, 2020

Since the first industrial revolution two-and-a-half centuries ago, globalization has entailed movements of commodities, free and coerced labor, capital, and technical knowledge across the world. It has successively brought new countries and regions into networks of global trade and production. Today it continues a long history of rapid transformation, based on complex commodity chains, the diffusion of digital processes, and, as always, the transfer of knowledge and innovation. Many regions of the world have been integrated into the rapid economic development that was initiated and fueled by these factors.

The Weatherhead Initiative for Global History and the History Department of the East China Normal University, and other members of the Global History Network, will examine this multidimensional process of transformation –from the vantage of the history of material commodities and technological transfer broadly construed – at a conference at the ECNU in Shanghai in October 2020. We welcome proposals for papers that will address the question of how the extraction of resources, cultivation and marketing of commodities, and the changing organization of production and finance have driven economic and social transformation across the modern world, including the dismantling of established hierarchies of power and traditional identities. Papers should address not just the role of commodities, inventions, or productive processes in any one society, but the disruptive and/or developmental effect produced as they were taken across borders. Papers should help us understand the breadth and pace of material, technical, and organizational change as it has drawn diverse societies into global modernity.

In view of this, the Department of History of East China Normal University together with the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History of Harvard University will hold an international conference on global history in Shanghai on October 13th-17th, 2020.


  • Please submit a single combined doc or pdf file including an abstract of no more than 300 words, along with CV (up to 2 pages) and send to with the subject line “Commodities2020” by April 15th, 2020.
  • Scholars chosen to participate in the conference will have to submit the final version of their unpublished and original paper (of not more than 7000 words) no later than July 31st, 2020.
  • In the body of the email, please include your name, affiliation, and the title of your project.
  • We recommend including a header with your name on every page of your submission.
  • In the case of papers with multiple contributors, we are only able to cover transportation costs for one person.

The Global History Network is a network of global history institutions including East China Normal University, Shanghai; the International Institute of Social History, the Netherlands; Lab Mundi at University of Sao Paulo, Brazil; Department of History, University of Delhi; the Weatherhead Initiative on Global History, Harvard University, USA; and Université Cheikh Anta Diop, Dakar, Senegal.