World History Survey

Published 2009. Contact: James Liu


The World History Survey is an eight-page quantitative survey that has been administered to university students all over the world (in more than 40 countries to date) using an inventory of 40 events and 40 figures developed from previous open-ended research.

This project examines to what extent evaluations of and the importance of historical figures and events are universal or culture-specific. This provides clues as to what might be universal versus culture specific symbols that connect or divide humanity.


Key findings that have emerged from initial analyses are that there are no universal dimensions of historical perception for events. Different cultures have different representations of historical events.

However, all cultures investigated had a robust concept of Historical Calamities, and relatively less reliable concepts of Historical Progress and Historical Resistance fo Oppression. This suggests that across cultures what is shared about world history is a conception of the negative and undesired, but there is far less agreement about what is positive and desired.

We are producing an analysis of figures in world history, group identity and historical perceptions in Europe, cross-cultural correlates of historical representations, and historical perceptions in sub-Saharan Africa.

You can access the research "Representing World History in the 21st Century: The Impact of 9/11, the Iraq War, and the Nation-State on Dynamics of Collective Remembering" here.