2 An Oceanic History of Civilization
1. The World Historical Viewpoint
From World History to Global History
To create the future, we must be aware of the present and have a clear understanding of our origins. By revealing the origins of the present, history provides a bridge from the past to the future. The aim of Japanese history is a comprehensive understanding of the origins of Japan, and it is important that we approach this aim from the broadest possible perspective. Since a broad perspective necessarily embraces the whole world, we have to consider Japanese history from the viewpoint of world history.
Even before World War II it was recognized in Japan that _history in the future will have to be world history._ The attempt to understand the origins of our own country only from the perspective of national history gives us a blinkered view, like the frog in the well who knows nothing of the ocean. To avoid this, we must consider our country_s past, present, and future in the context of the world as a whole.
World history was established as an academic field in the nineteenth century by the German Leopold Von Ranke (1795_1886), who is generally viewed as the founding father of modern historical scholarship. Since the study of world history originated in the west, it has been taken for granted that Europe should constitute the basis of historical research. The bias towards the West in history textbooks thus has its origins in the circumstances in which world history came into being.
The time has surely come for us to free ourselves from _world history_ that is too biased towards Western history. In order to adopt a truly world historical viewpoint, it might be better to use the expression _global history_ rather than _world history._ At the close of the twentieth century, we have acquired the ability to view the earth in its entirety and observe every detail of its surface from outer space. From the nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth century, parts of the globe were still shown only as outline maps, and explorers set out in search of unknown continents, the North and South Poles, deserts, high mountains and deep valleys. But nowadays aerial photographs provide us with minute information on every corner of the earth and the blanks have disappeared from the globe. Now that humankind has attained a greater scale of vision than ever before, we have come to view the earth as a single entity.
Leaving the Land for the Sea
The meanings of the word _earth_ include mother earth, land, and soil. For most of our history, our images of the earth have always been associated with flat expanses of land. But the earth we see in the satellite pictures is spherical and the increasing use of the word _globe_ is a reflection of this change in our image of the earth. In view of this revolution in spatial perception arising from our ability to observe the earth from outer space, it is now time to move on from conventional world history to global history. Our world historical perspective must now embrace the whole planet.
Global history, however, is not simply the product of encyclopedic knowledge, it must arise from the comprehensive interpretation of the world from a global perspective. Rather than depending on the volume or profundity of knowledge, therefore, the global historical outlook rests on our ability to view the earth and its history as a whole. Viewed from outer space, the earth is blue. This is because seventy percent of its surface is covered by sea. For this reason, the earth is described as an aqueous planet. The remaining thirty percent is made up of large and small land masses. Although we tend to think of it as _terra firma,_ this land can be seen as nothing more than a large archipelago in a huge expanse of sea. The various large and small islands floating on this vast planet of water are the environment in which we have led our lives.