Call for papers: Development and Securitisation, and (Counter)-Insurgency

THE MALAYAN EMERGENCY 1948-1960 (K 14435) A member of the Malayan Home Guard mans a check point on the edge of a town. Such check points allowed the authorities to search vehicles and intercept food and supplies being smuggled out to the communist terrorists. Copyright: © IWM. Original Source: http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205212422

Development and Securitisation, and (Counter)-Insurgency

Joint research workshop:

Understanding Insurgencies network and The worlds of (under)development: processes and legacies of the Portuguese colonial empire in a comparative perspective (1945-1975)

Lisbon, Portugal, 14-15 March 2019

Call for Papers

Proposals for papers are invited from members of the Understanding Insurgencies network and others for a two-day research workshop exploring the connections between development initiatives and counter-insurgent efforts to restore, impose, or otherwise establish forms of social control.

Enmeshed in rhetoric of poverty reduction and enhanced social opportunity, colonial development is increasingly viewed by scholars more sceptically: less as evidence of imperial goodwill than as an instrument of social and geo-political control in the face of mounting anti-colonial opposition. Sometimes described as integral to colonial claims to modernization, development policies could be highly coercive. At one level, technical aid and financial support was expected to diminish the appeal of anti-colonial alternatives, thereby stabilizing imperial order. At another, more tangible level, the instruments of development were often directives requiring forced relocation, the abandonment of customary practices, or the fulfillment of obligations that rendered individuals legible to – and controllable by – colonial authority. Arguments over development thus encapsulated the tension intrinsic to colonial authority: limited interventionism and purported respect for local ‘tradition’ or the pursuit of heightened social control characteristic of development projects. Continue reading “Call for papers: Development and Securitisation, and (Counter)-Insurgency”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

A prince and attendants visiting a noble yogini at an Ashram. Murshidabad sub-style, c1765. Image © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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

From the first women of philosophy to how to think about empire, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

These ‘Persuasive Maps’ Want You to Believe

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

A good omen for the new year? It’s a pleasure to see that our post from late last year exploring a wonderful new digital map collection at Cornell Library was recently featured by Mimi Kirk over at the Atlantic‘s City Lab. Here’s a preview, in case you missed it:

When PJ Mode began to purchase old maps in the 1980s, he set out to amass a typical collection of world maps. But along the way, his attention turned to unusual maps that dealers weren’t sure how to categorize—those that attempted to persuade rather than convey geographic information.

“Most collectors looked down their noses at these maps because they didn’t technically consider them maps,” Mode says. “But they were fun and they were inexpensive, and over the years I became more interested in them than the old world maps.”

The interest has culminated in a collection of more than 800 “persuasive maps,” as they are now called, which can be found in digital form through Cornell University’s library. Mode has sorted them into themes, from imperialism to religion to slavery, many with meticulous notes about their history and meaning. One of the oldest, from a 1506 Italian manuscript, gives an overview of hell, while more recent acquisitions include a facetious 2012 New Yorker cover of the Second Avenue subway line.

An overview of hell, as seen in a 1506 Italian manuscript. (Courtesy of Cornell University—PJ Mode Collection of Persuasive Cartography)

Marc-William Palen, a University of Exeter history professor and author of The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade, recently came across the collection. “I got lost in it for days,” he says. Palen, who specializes in British and American imperialism, was particularly taken with an 1888 map depicting the trade policy platforms of the year’s presidential candidates, Democratic incumbent Grover Cleveland and Republican Benjamin Harrison. While Cleveland and his party supported free trade, the Republicans’ platform was deeply protectionist.

Continue reading “These ‘Persuasive Maps’ Want You to Believe”

“There is no Cold War”: global networks in polio vaccine research

Dora Vargha
University of Exeter

When not portrayed as a heroic struggle for the betterment of mankind, polio vaccine development has mostly been told as a story of bitter rivalry between Salk and Sabin. It has also been recounted as a particular “American Story”, with the March of Dimes, the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis with the occasional mention of the Sabin trials in the Soviet Union. Historical narratives of polio have rarely crossed national borders, even though polio is undisputedly seen as a global health issue today.

But if we step outside of the national boundaries and shift our perspective from an American view, another story of polio unfolds. It reveals that polio as a global health issue is not a recent phenomenon, but one that reaches back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. It sheds light on a global network of scientists and public health officials, who set in motion global vaccine trials in the 1950s and 60s. Against a backdrop of Cold War tensions and the remnants of the colonial world, the personal networks of researchers intertwined with the emergence of the World Health Organization (WHO) in the development of live poliovirus vaccines. The international agency capitalized on the network of scientists to become a coordinating, validating and standardizing entity, while researchers used the WHO to establish further ties, get access to cutting-edge technology, or to free vaccines in public health emergencies. Continue reading ““There is no Cold War”: global networks in polio vaccine research”

Top 10 of 2018 – #1 – Colonialism is Fun? Sid Meier’s Civilization and the Gamification of Imperialism

Editor’s Note: In the weeks leading up to the new year, please help us remember 2018 at the Imperial & Global Forum by checking out the past year’s 10 most popular posts.

Nick Pullen
McGill University

If you were to tell the children and adults who first bought copies of legendary PC game designer Sid Meier’s Civilization in 1991 that they would still be playing some version of this classic game of imperial expansion almost thirty years later, they probably wouldn’t have believed you. Yet the record-breaking franchise, now in itssixth iteration, has continued to ensnare generations of PC gamers with its epic sweep, imaginative scope, and highly addictive turn-based gameplay that allows you to take an ancient empire to conquer the world—and then colonize the stars.

Yet Civilization’s staying-power also sits uncomfortably with an incipient opposition from those opposed to its imperial overtones, and provides a fascinating window into the persistent, underlying colonial assumptions of modern-day society.

While the game has developed and expanded in complexity over the decades, the essential elements have remained the same since I’ve been playing. Players assume control of a world civilization in 4000 BCE, playing as one of that civilization’s most significant leaders, and lead it over the millennia into the near future, as far as it can be reasonably imagined. As the game’s first iteration in 1991 put it, “a great leader [is required] to unite the quarreling tribes, to harness the power of the land, to build a legacy that will stand the test of time: a Civilization.” Cities are founded, world wonders are constructed, economies are grown, and war machines spring to life. [continue reading]

Top 10 of 2018 – #2 – Amazing new digital archive of political maps for imperial and global historians

Editor’s Note: In the weeks leading up to the new year, please help us remember 2018 at the Imperial & Global Forum by checking out the past year’s 10 most popular posts.

American Bases in the World‘ (1951), French Communist Party. Courtesy of the P.J. Mode Collection, Cornell Library.

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

In case you missed it (I was tweeting about it A LOT last week), Cornell Library’s Digital Collections have just made available an amazing archive – the PJ Mode Collection – consisting of around 800 political maps that should be on the radar of anyone working on imperial and global history. They. Are. Awesome.

Here’s a sampling.


The Whole Story in a Nutshell!’ (1888) – Here’s one of my favorites for a lot of reasons. To give it some context, the so-called Great Debate of 1888 (that year’s presidential election) was centered around the future of US trade policy. The GOP was staunchly protectionist and Anglophobic at this time, and they feared the perceived influence of ‘Free Trade England’ on US politics. British free traders (in particular London’s Cobden Club, featured on the bottom left), were the main targets of paranoid Republican protectionist propaganda. Democratic President Grover Cleveland only added to the conspiracy theories when he filled his cabinet and advisors with US members of the Cobden Club. The pro-Harrison map does a vivid job of illustrating the GOP’s economic nationalism in contrast to Democratic free trade. For more on this, my book, The ‘Conspiracy’ of Free Trade, explores the conspiratorial reception of British free-trade ideas in Gilded Age America.

[continue reading]

Top 10 of 2018 – #3 – “Going Native” with Dune’s Paul Atreides

Editor’s Note: In the weeks leading up to the new year, please help us remember 2018 at the Imperial & Global Forum by checking out the past year’s 10 most popular posts.

Toby Harper
Arizona State University

During the day in the mid-2000s I took classes in imperial history. On Friday and Saturday nights I descended to the basement of the student center at the University of Auckland to take part in an intense, desperate, and sometimes violent feud with five friends over control of the planet of Arrakis through Avalon Hill’s legendary strategy board game, Dune.

The board game was released in 1979, the same year as Edward Said’s Orientalism. These sessions extended long into the night (the game can take ten hours to complete) and both tested and forged friendships as we schemed with, tricked, and betrayed each other. At the time, I didn’t consider any connection between my history classes (or even discussions about Said with the same friends) and these nocturnal contests. In hindsight, though, the source material for the game, Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel, Dune, built on nineteenth- and twentieth-century imperial fantasies of knowledge, control, and power.[1]

On the surface, the novel Dune fulfills a popular imperialist fantasy by granting its main character mastery over native “others” whose superstition and history makes them comprehensible and exploitable. However, it is also a book of schemes, assassination, betrayal, hidden motives, and unexpected consequences. Like the novel’s main antagonists, this fantasy ends stabbed and poisoned on the floor of a broken palace. In certain ways, Herbert’s embrace and subversion of orientalist tropes around knowledge even anticipated modern critiques of empire. [continue reading]