John A Mears

Professor Emeritus Early Modern Europe Global and Comparative





Educational Background

Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1964
M.A. University of Chicago, 1962
B.A. University of Minnesota, 1960

Awards and Service 

Editorial Board, World History Connected 2003-present
President World History Association 1994-96
Director, SMU International Programs 1984-92
Chair, Honorary Degrees Selection Committee 1982-85
Opening Convocation Address 1984
Director, SMU-in-Austria 1977-78
Coordinator of Humanities, University College1969-72, 1975-76
National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 1967 and 1978
Director, NDEA Institute in History 1966
Woodrow Wilson Fellowship, 1960-61

Books and Essays

  • Achievements Through the Ages co-author Joachim R. Schneider Laidlaw Brothers, 1984
  • Agricultural Origins in Global Perspective in Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History ed. Michael Adas Temple University Press, 2001
  • “Methodological Considerations for the Comparative Study of Civilizations,” Comparative Civilizations Review, 1996
  • “The Thirty Years' War, the General Crisis, and the Origins of a Standing Professional Army in the Habsburg Monarchy,” Central European History, 1988
  • “Early Modern Origins of the Concept of Political Revolution,” Proceedings of the Consortium on Revolutionary Europe Proceedings, 1986 
Professor John Mears began his career specializing in the emergence of standing professional armies in early modern Europe, with a complementary interest in comparative revolutionary movements. His growing awareness of global forces transforming the context of human existence in the twentieth century motivated him to make world history a primary area of concern.

While attempting to delineate the dominant trends and large scale patterns of development that have shaped the lives of human beings over extended periods of time, Mears co-authored his world history textbook, Achievements Through the Ages. Additionally, when the Department of History initiated its Ph.D. program in 1998, Mears played a key role in organizing a supporting field in Global and Comparative History.

Mears’ current project, tentatively entitled, To Be Human: A Perspective on Our Common History, is a single interpretation of shared characteristics and the diversity of human experience in world-historical terms. In order to convey a heightened sense of the interrelated and interdependent nature of the human experience, Mears applies an analytical framework organized around three radical transmutations:
  1. the Upper Paleolithic takeoff associated with the emergence of Homo Sapiens as the sole surviving hominid
  2. the advent of complex societies (or civilizations) typically based on sedentary food production and centered around cities
  3. the global integration of societies that appears to be occurring at an accelerating rate at the onset of the twenty-first century
Mears finds that each successive transmutation unfolded more rapidly and with greater ramifications. Historical processes that had been operating for centuries or even millennia reached some kind of culmination while others were beginning to gather momentum. All coincided with periods of remarkable technological innovation that substantially altered the relationships of human beings to their environments and supported exponential population growth by increasing the carrying capacity of the Earth. They all marked breaks with existing cultural patterns and introduced deep alterations in the organization of society, thereby effecting virtually every aspect of daily existence.
John Mears