This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From how Japanese Canadians survived internment to when Africa was a German laboratory, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

On Trade Books and Global History

Map of Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires. Printed in 1572 by Braun and Hogenberg in Civitates Orbis Terrarum. nicoolay/Getty Images

In this blog post Professor Maria Fusaro responds to some questions put to her by Professor Richard Toye about trade books and global history.

RT: In the many discussions that are currently going on around ‘decolonising’, one thing I’ve not seen addressed is the role of the publishing industry. Whatever happens in universities, publishers have a big influence on how history is discussed in the public sphere. Are there particular pitfalls surrounding trade publishing (as opposed to academic publishing), do you think?

MF: What a good question! Or I should probably say ‘questions’, as you raise more than one point as ‘trade books’ are an important phenomenon within the Anglosphere.

The first question you raise is about relationship between ‘academic’ and ‘trade’ publishing, and their different (divergent?) goals. Directly descending from this is a separate issue, namely how this affects efforts at decolonising the curriculum. And connected to both is how ‘trade’ and academic publishing need to interact.

Professional historians tend to be based in universities, and their scientific reputations are built through their production of academic essays and volumes. Once upon a time, there was an organic development between academic and trade books. One started to publish within the academic world, built his (I was going to write ‘her’ and then realised they were all men) scientific reputation and then, towards the end of his career or in retirement wrote for the general public. As a phenomenon peculiar to the Anglosphere, there was also the non professional historian, who eschewed the academic path and wrote ‘histories’ for the educated public, the latter type were (and are) usually very gifted writers.

These two publishing paths now run instead mostly in parallel, and historians frequently write both academic and trade books, which is great news for the profession, but also potentially dangerous. This is due to the growing schizophrenia between the type of books published by academic presses, and the growth of trade books with a ‘global’ subject, usually sensationalizing individuals or goods – single years are also in vogue. Continue reading “On Trade Books and Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Black Lives Matter demonstration in London on July 8, 2016 (Photo: Alisdare Hickson, Flickr).

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From the transnational roots of Black History Month in Britain to how bad medieval history feeds far-right fantasies, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

The Human Rights Dictatorship – An Interview with Ned Richardson-Little

Ned Richardson-Little. The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2020. £22.99 Paperback

Interviewed by Marc-William Palen

Ned Richardson-Little’s The Human Rights Dictatorship recovers the history of human rights within the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In doing so, he provocatively reinterprets the Cold War, the evolution of human rights in the Eastern Bloc, and the revolutions of 1989. The book provocatively shows how “human rights” had multiple meanings depending upon which side of the Cold War – and the Berlin Wall – you found yourself. Richardson-Little’s tracing of how the meaning of human rights evolved in the decades after the Second World War illuminates a global battleground of ideas that continued to be fought in Eastern Europe long after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Dr Richardson-Little is a Freigeist Fellow at the University of Erfurt, Germany, where he leads a project on international crime and globalization. Before this, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the 1989 after 1989 research group (2014-18). He received the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize from the German Historical Institute (Washington) and a commendation from the Fraenkel Prize committee at the Wiener Library. Academic publications include numerous chapters and journal articles, and the editing of a special issue of East Central Europe.  He has also written for the Imperial & Global Forum, and hosts a blog, History Ned. You can follow him on Twitter @HistoryNed.

How would you briefly summarize your book? Give us your “elevator pitch,” if you will.

The idea of human rights was crucial to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of state socialism in East Germany, but before that, it had also been a core part of communist ideology used to legitimize dictatorship. The ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) came to see itself and the German Democratic Republic as a champion of human rights, both at home and around the world. The party even created a socialist version of Amnesty International to campaign on behalf of victims of human rights violations in West Germany and beyond. For dissident activists, creating a human rights movement wasn’t a matter of being inspired by the West, but reclaiming the idea of human rights from the state by demanding democracy and pluralism from within. The SED was able to use human rights politics to sustain power for decades, but once dissident groups succeeded in wresting it from the party, this accelerated the process of collapse leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Continue reading “The Human Rights Dictatorship – An Interview with Ned Richardson-Little”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Castro in Harlem
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, and Cuban President Fidel Castro, center, are seen outside the Hotel Theresa in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. (Associated Press)

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From the African who transformed Anglo-Saxon England to the anti-colonial repatriation of museum artifacts, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Why Globalise? 1989 in Eastern Europe and the Politics of History

East and West Berliners gathering at the Berlin Wall on November 10, 1989, one day after the wall opened. Source: britannica.com

Zoltán Ginelli

Excerpted from LeftEast

In this three-part interview, conducted, transcribed and edited by Zoltán Ginelli, history professor James Mark talks about his latest book.

James Mark is a British Professor of History at the University of Exeter. His research focuses on the history and memory politics of state-socialism in East Central Europe from the perspective of broader global histories, transnational processes and comparative methods. In 2019, James finished leading two 5-year international research projects: 1989 After 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective and Socialism Goes Global: Cold War Connections Between the ‘Second’ and ‘Third Worlds’. The two projects focused on how to reinterpret state-socialism, the Cold War, the 1989–91 system changes and the postsocialist period in Eastern European history as part of global processes and in the histories of colonialism and anti-colonialism. The titles of the two projects came from two published articles.[1] In 2019, these projects published several books, such as 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe, and Alternative Globalizations: Eastern Europe and the Postcolonial World, but three further volumes are in also production, one of them entitled Historicizing Whiteness in Eastern Europe. Readers might also be interested in the exhibition Tito in Africa: Picturing Solidarity organised as part of the second project and bearing an exhibition book (The Wende MuseumPitt Rivers MuseumMuseum of Yugoslavia). The exhibition presents the African round-trips of Yugoslavian president Tito in the 1960s and 1970s in the context of the development of the Non-Aligned Movement and the Third World. Continue reading “Why Globalise? 1989 in Eastern Europe and the Politics of History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Demonstrations against Treuhand, as seen in the documentary. Photograph: Netflix

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From Germany’s answer to the JFK assassination to Wendell Willkie’s world without borders, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Dangerous but rarely deadly: Fire as protest in modern Ireland

Gemma Clark
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from FORGED BY FIRE: BURNS INJURY AND IDENTITY IN BRITAIN, C.1800-2000

Arson is the criminal act of setting fire to property with the aim to cause damage; yet, whether or not incendiaries also intend to harm people, fires often result in ‘tragedies involving burns and scalds’, as documented by this blog. In November 1991, during the Northern Ireland Troubles, two young arsonists ‘motivated by sectarian hatred’ killed Kathleen Lundy, a Catholic convert through marriage, and her 15-year-old son, Colin, residents of the predominantly Protestant area of Glengormey, near Belfast. (Another son, Gerard, aged 19, was injured.) Mark Whyte, 18, and Richard McKay, 19, claimed at Belfast Crown Court that they believed the family was staying with relatives on the night they ‘poured petrol through the letterbox’ of the Lundy home and ‘set it alight’.[1] In a seemingly-weak defence of a life-threatening act, McKay ‘thumped the dock with his fist and shouted out – “Nobody was meant to die”.’[2] Mr Justice Nicholson ‘had a “slight doubt” as to whether they intended to kill’, sentencing the pair, in February 1993, to concurrent fifteen-year sentences for arson and manslaughter.[3]

As a historian of arson, I explore similarly difficult questions around personal and collective motivations for malicious fire setting, focusing specifically on its function as a tool of protest and intercommunal violence. One of the core and perhaps unexpected findings in my research area, Britain and especially Ireland since c.1800, is that this inherently dangerous strategy has claimed relatively few casualties, especially when compared to modern, sinister usages of fire, such as ethnic cleansing and inter-religious/racial violence, elsewhere in the world.[4] There have been racist and suspected-racist arson attacks in modern Britain; the New Cross house fire, in London, 1981, for example, claimed thirteen young lives and shaped Black British identity.[5] However, the relative scarcity of lethal arson, particularly in the British/Irish protest sphere, is surprising because arguably incendiarism works so effectively – as intimidation and insurgency – precisely because of its lethal potential. Humans learn from a young age ‘that fire can hurt us. It can burn our body and lay waste to our home’;[6] I have found that politically-motivated arsonists historically have traded on this primal fear, of losing everything to the flames, to induce action and compliance with demands. Continue reading “Dangerous but rarely deadly: Fire as protest in modern Ireland”

Decolonising and Black British History: a teaching resource

Laura Sangha
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from The Many-Headed Monster

If you are thinking about decolonising your history module this year, this seminar plan [pdf] might be of use to you. It’s based around ‘Black Lives in Early Modern England’, but with minor tweaking of the reading and primary sources it could be adapted for most modules, whether pre-modern or modern.

John Blanke (detail from 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll).

The seminar aims to introduce students to some key concepts whilst also encouraging them to think about methodology and historiography. It combines synchronous and asynchronous activities, and is equivalent to four hours of synchronous seminar time (it’s designed for my Special Subject which in non-pandemic years is taught by means of 2 x 2 hour seminars a week).

In this post, I want to share some of my recent experiences and which provide some context to where the seminar emerged from. Continue reading “Decolonising and Black British History: a teaching resource”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From using Instagram to teach forgotten histories to when rock fought against racism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Autumn Term @ExeterCIGH Virtual Seminar Schedule

The Autumn Term is now upon us, and so please find the Centre for Imperial and Global History virtual seminar schedule below for your calendars.

Please direct any inquiries about attending to the seminar convenor, Dr Lyubi Spaskovska. 

Date (Term 1)

Speakers 

Paper Title 

23rd September 2020 (Week 1), 15:30h

Nandini Chatterjee (University of Exeter), in conversation with Gajendra Singh (University of Exeter)

Book launch: Negotiating Mughal Law a Family of Landlords Across Three Indian Empires (CUP, 2020)

7th October 2020 (Week 3), 15:30h

Rachel Lin (University of Exeter) &

Iacopo Adda (University of Geneva)

Historical Memory in Sino-Russian Border Museums

21st October 2020 (Week 5), 15:30h

Joint event with Violence

Margot Tudor (University of Manchester) 

Emily Bridger (University of Exeter)

 

Beer, Boxing, and Belly-dancers: Gendering Peacekeepers in Egypt 1956-1967

‘All Township Love-making is Rough’: Rape as a Contested Concept in Apartheid-era Soweto, South Africa

4th November 2020 (Week 7), 15:30h

Crispin Bates (University of Edinburgh)

Policing Intimacy and Queering the History of South Asian Overseas Migration in the Colonial Era

18th November 2020 (Week 9), 15:30h

Beth Rebisz (University of Reading) 

Gavin Davies (University of Exeter)

Gendered Geographies of State Coercion in the Late-Colonial Period: Kenya, 1954-1960

‘The Eye’s Great Feast’: Food and Civility in William Darton Jr’s Games of Travelling in Asia and Europe

2nd December 2020 (Week 11), 15:30h

Nicholas Grant (University of East Anglia)

Task Force Africa: The NAACP and Black Internationalism in the 1970s

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

“Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)” by J. M. W. Turner, 1840

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From how not to be an alien to the microdynamics of late colonial violence, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From revisiting grand theories of history to topics you’re not supposed to discuss at dinner, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta

Richard Toye

Cross-posted from History Matters

On 23 February 1945 Churchill invited all ministers outside the War Cabinet to his room at the House of Commons to hear his account of the Yalta conference and the one at Malta that had preceded it. The Labour minister Hugh Dalton recorded in his diary that “The PM spoke very warmly of Stalin. He was sure […] that as long as Stalin lasted, Anglo-Russian friendship could be maintained.” Churchill added: “Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust with Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about Stalin.”[1]

Just five days later, however, Churchill’s trusted private secretary John Colville noted the arrival of:

“sinister telegrams from Roumania showing that the Russians are intimidating the King and Government […] with all the techniques familiar to students of the Comintern. […] When the PM came back [from dining at Buckingham Palace] […] he said he feared he could do nothing. Russia had let us go our way in Greece; she would insist on imposing her will in Roumania and Bulgaria. But as regards Poland we would have our say. As we went to bed, after 2.00 a.m. the PM said to me, ‘I have not the slightest intention of being cheated over Poland, not even if we go to the verge of war with Russia.”[2]

At an initial glance, there seems to be a powerful contradiction between these different sets of remarks. In the first, Churchill appears remarkably naïve and foolish, putting his faith in his personal relationship with a man whom he knew to be a mass murderer. In the second he seems strikingly, even recklessly bellicose, contemplating a new war with the Soviets, his present allies, even before the Germans and the Japanese had been defeated.

Surprising though it may seem, the disjuncture is not as large as it appears on the surface. Relations with the USSR and the future of Poland were not the only things that were at stake at Yalta. The Big Three took important decisions regarding the proposed United Nations Organization, and the post-war treatment of Germany, and even Anglo-US relations were not uncomplicated. In this post, however, I want to focus on the Polish issue and the broader question of how Churchill viewed the Soviet Union and its place in international relations more generally. I will outline three key assumptions that governed Churchill’s approach and which explain the apparent discrepancies in his remarks upon his return. Continue reading “‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

India Office Records and Private Papers. Source: British Library, Mss Eur F112/276, f 102-103

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From an independent Kurdistan to when fascism almost came to Australia, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”