What Is the “Global” of Global History? Nineteen Twenty-Nine Jaffa between Global Warming and the Lived Experience of Heat
Global history is founded on two main conceptions of “the global”—one resulting from connectivity, the other from integration—notions that might sometimes complement one another, yet might also be incompatible. Attending to global warming via the similarly sometimes-complementary-sometimes-contradictory difference between temperature and heat, this essay teases out such conceptual multiplicity and its frictions. What might a global history of warming look like—the history of rising temperatures, that of rising heat, or both? This essay addresses this question by examining the Middle East, a supposed hotspot, from two perspectives: it first describes how in the late nineteenth century the region was absorbed into the ambit of a global network of temperature measurement in which observatories in Cairo and Beirut were key. It then looks more closely at a particular place between these cities, Jaffa in 1929, to probe how various kinds of heat were generated and experienced there and whether they can be neatly mapped onto the abstract mean temperatures calculated in the aforementioned settings. Eventually, this exercise casts light on converging and diverging notions of “global” and “warming” as well as on the benefits and pitfalls of approaching climate change and global warming from a global history perspective.