The General Crisis is dead; long live the Little Divergence!

The General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century is an expression that refers to several efforts to supply early modern history with a new organizing principle. They seek to account for the decisive entry of Europe, or a part of it, to a recognizable modernity. Resistance to these efforts has been motivated, in part, to the claims of other historical “turning points” to act as the portal to modernity. For some time, all efforts to “explain” modernity, or to impose master narratives in general, has been out of fashion, and interest in the crisis waned. But over the past fifteen years, the influence of global history and the concept of the Great Divergence has revived interest in the early modern period as the locus of a fundamental parting of ways. Do these new studies have implications for the general crisis?



Presented at the Center for Historical Research at The Ohio State University by Prof. Jan DeVries. The Ohio State University Center for Historical Research provides a stimulating intellectual environment for studying important historical issues around the world. Each year the Center brings together scholars from various disciplines to examine issues of broad contemporary relevance in historical perspective. The annual program of the Center is organized around a central theme, which will be explored through a series of twelve seminars. For more information about CHR, visit