The last few decades have upset the old balance that had long been the inspiration of historians. Historians and others who recorded their thoughts and research with the long term in mind, thinking of permanence and continuity, were encouraged to place emphasis on communication and circulation. In their eyes both of these were questioning the fragmentations of the local, changing acquired habits, requiring dialogue and exchange - in the peaceful mode of commercial trade or the violent one of war and looting. This paper claims that today's view is fundamentally different, since the threat has changed place and nature: standardization has replaced isolation. So the question facing us today with particular force is: can history and knowledge of the past still claim to help us understand the present?