Message from the Director

The World History Center is Pitt’s home for research, education and public programming about the transregional and global human past.  We have an increasingly urgent mission. Violent nationalism and xenophobia are more powerful and widespread than they have been in decades.  In August 2019, as I write, there are more than a hundred wildfires burning inside the Arctic Circle. I am proud to direct a Center with a fundamental mission to challenge these alarming trends.  Some of our activities showcase ways in which the global and cosmopolitan human past was creative and humane. Others reveal galling truths about slavery, genocide and the expropriation of earth’s resources. In all cases, we acknowledge the moral complexity of human activity. The World History Center promotes critical thinking about the global past, which we hope will inspire both insight and action.

In this spirit, last spring we hosted a lunch series that launched with a session called Hosting Events in Troubled Times. We continued with interdisciplinary discussions about Global Indigeneity that offered historical perspectives on the cultural persistence of native peoples around the world.  We also cosponsored a series of talks about Global Islamic History to promote knowledge about the breadth of Muslim learning and accomplishment from Mali to Pakistan during more than a millennium of time.

In addition to discussion and lecture events, the 2018-19 year was full of education and research activity at the Center. Under the direction of Postdoctoral Fellow Ryan Horne, the Digital Atlas Design Internship enjoyed a year of tremendous success, and it was one of four Pitt showcase research projects at the ACCelerate Creativity and Innovation Festival in Washington, DC. Our Head of Educational Initiatives, WHC Associate Director Molly Warsh, is growing the Alliance for Learning in World History into a regional and national resource for world history teachers, and we have begun hosting professional development workshops. We’ve worked with the History Department to launch a Credential in Teaching World History. The World Historical Gazetteer, a spatial history infrastructure and content project funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will launch a public beta release this fall. Our Graduate Student Assistants in Public History have completed lectures and exhibits on a wide range of topics: from globally circulating Catholic relics to colonial Andean miner rebellionsCenter Coordinator David Ruvolo serves as Managing Editor of the Journal of World Systems Research, which includes a World Historical Information section under our editorial direction.

With these and other activities, we are positioning the WHC as an integral interdisciplinary center of activity that supports every member of the Pitt community whose research and teaching concerns the global and transregional past.  We look forward to building on last year’s a record-breaking number of applicants for research and travel funding: from History, from throughout the Dietrich School, and from across the Pitt campus.

We look forward with enthusiasm and optimism to another year of accomplishment and growth for all these endeavors.  In the perilous times in which we live, with globalism under attack, it is more important than ever to study the long history of transregional connections and the ways that they have given rise to both creativity and suffering. We look forward to seeing many of you in person and online and to collaborating with you on many exciting and vital ventures.


--Ruth Mostern, WHC Director, August 2019