Notes Wasn’t the World always Modern?
It is time to rethink the very category of ‘Modern’ and its derivatives, Medieval and Ancient; time, in fact, to rethink the whole problematic of historical periodisation. By most indices, the world we inhabit today is the very epitome of modernity, even as distinct survivals of the distant past are an integral part of our daily life. One wonders how the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries will be characterised in, say, the 22nd or the 23rd century. ‘Modern’? Very unlikely, for modernity would have acquired a different set of markers and perhaps meaning. And surely not Medieval or Ancient or any variation of these. It’s time perhaps to rethink the very category of ‘Modern’ and its derivatives, Medieval and Ancient – time, in other words, to rethink the whole problematic of historical periodisation. Indeed, the discipline of history is abuzz with numerous questions on the theme springing up everywhere within the academia. Not a fragment is left of what was ‘out there’ (in the late C.A. Bayly’s words) for everyone to see and absorb with nary a doubt in anyone’s mind just a quarter of a century ago; today it lies in a shambles.