New ‘Talking Empire’ Podcast: Richard Toye and Henry Knight Lozano on U.S. Settler Colonialism and the Pacific West

In the newest in CIGH’s ‘Talking Empire‘ series, Professor Richard Toye interviews Dr. Henry Knight Lozano about his book California and Hawai’i Bound: U.S. Settler Colonialism and the Pacific West, 1848-1959, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2021.

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From the Walter Rodney murder mystery 40 years later to British collaborators in Africa, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.


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

PhD Studentship – Parliamentary Empire: British Democracy and Settler Colonialism, c.1867-1939 History

Deadline: 5 January 2022

University of Exeter – College of Humanities

Applications are invited for a PhD studentship as part of a Leverhulme funded project examining the role of Parliament in the UK and the settler-colonial ‘British World’ between the 1860s and 1930s, shedding light on the connected debates about democratic governance and political inclusion within a fractious British Empire.

Parliamentary Empire examines the role of Parliament in civic life in the UK and the settler-colonial ‘British World’ between the 1860s and 1930s. By exploring how different groups appealed to values of British parliamentarianism, we shed new light on the connected debates about democratic governance and political inclusion that characterised the emergence of nations within a fractious British Empire.

Continue reading “PhD Studentship – Parliamentary Empire: British Democracy and Settler Colonialism, c.1867-1939 History”

Hanfu is More than a Costume: How China’s Contradictory Imperial Legacies are Creating a New Chinese Identity 

Hanfu craze: Young Chinese wearing Hanfu  

Tom Harper

On the 22nd November 2003, an electrical power worker from the Chinese province of Henan, Wang Letian, walked around his home city of Zhengzhou wearing a traditional Chinese costume called the Hanfu. Wang intended to promote traditional Chinese culture by generating interest in traditional Chinese garb.  At the time, Wang’s actions were unusual, with the Hanfu being largely confined to film sets and tourist attractions.[1]  Nevertheless, Wang received significant attention in China, and has often been cited as the originator of the current Hanfu craze sweeping China today.

Wang’s goal of promoting Chinese traditional culture appears to have been fulfilled in recent years, with the costume becoming a mainstay of social media platforms popular with Chinese millennials.  The popularity of the costume coincides with a wider discussion over the state of China’s identity, which marks a break from the previous focus on China’s economic development.[2]  This has often sought to emphasise the uniqueness of China’s identity as well as presenting China as a civilisation state rather than a nation-state in the Westphalian sense.[3]  By delving into China’s past, the rise of the Hanfu movement and the debate over China’s identity thus symbolises the contradictory nature of the legacies of China’s imperial dynasties, most notably the Ming and Qing dynasties, as well as the role that these have played in shaping the present Chinese perception of China.   

Continue reading “Hanfu is More than a Costume: How China’s Contradictory Imperial Legacies are Creating a New Chinese Identity “

Prof. Nandini Chatterjee Wins Book Award

Congratulations to CIGH’s Prof. Nandini Chatterjee, who has recently won a prestigious book award from the American Society for Legal History for her book Negotiating Mughal Law: A Family of Landlords Across Three Indian Empires (Cambridge University Press, 2020). The Peter Gonville Stein Book Award is given for the ‘Best book in legal history (written in English) outside the field of US legal history, published during the previous calendar year.’

Negotiating Mughal Law is a wonderful combination of philology, imagination, archive sleuthing, and sharp intelligence. Based on a painstakingly collected set of documents in a few languages from a society that lacked a centralized legal archive, it is a micro-history of a family of landlords in central India over several centuries. Chatterjee provides a rich narrative of law as put into practice in the daily lives of a wide range of people. Her attention to methodology is a model of the care and self-criticism that underlies the very best historical research, and for this reason the book is of great value beyond its specific geographical and temporal context.

You can read the official announcement and list of awards and prizes here.

Decolonising Collections: Investigating Knowledge Formation Networks in Colonial India

Gold coin of the Mugal ruler Jahangir (r. 1605– 27), zodiac coin bearing the figure of the Sagittarius on the obverse and an inscription on the reverse, minted in Lahore. Acquisition date 1937. © The Trustees of the British Museum

Shreya Gupta
University of Exeter

Objects hold a special place in the way we look at the past. Objects travel across borders and have lives. Their meanings and values change across time, and decoding these meanings can help us understand our history better. Museums are repositories of relics from the past. They are one of the mediums through which we form tangible links with our history. But objects in museums did not make it there by themselves.

Many of the South Asian objects in UK museums arrived here during the colonial era. Systematic projects of collecting were organised to serve the goals of museums. British imperial officers organised surveys of India’s landscape, monuments, and antiquities and with the collected artefacts, intended to write a history of and for India. While the life trajectories of these colonial officers are well documented, the role of their Indian collaborators and helpers is often omitted. This has to do with both the tendency to look at British officers as heroic figures who helped uncover India’s “hidden” past and the distorted nature of the archive, which itself tends to obscure the role of indigenous players.

We therefore need to rethink the way we look at museums and understand the urgency of decolonising them. As the movement for decolonising museums gains ground, their responsibility in telling inclusive and fuller stories has become clear. As part of this endeavor, museums are undertaking deeper provenance research. They are researching the histories of the objects that they hold, exploring the exact contours of how the collecting process worked on the ground and who were the actors and institutions involved in it. The findings from this research can then help us better make sense of the contested colonial contexts in which objects were acquired by museums during the height of colonialism.

Continue reading “Decolonising Collections: Investigating Knowledge Formation Networks in Colonial India”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Alexander Palace Egg, Fabergé, 1908. Chief workmaster Henrik Wigström. © The Moscow Kremlin Museums

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

From why the “Cold War” analogy today is lazy and dangerous to the ongoing hunt for the missing Fabergé Eggs, 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 Simón Bolívar as theorist of empire to the Muslimness of Dune, 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

Jack Johnson at the wheel of his 90 horse power Thomas Flyer, 1910. via Library of Congress.

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

From neoliberalism’s death from COVID to boxing and race in colonial Africa, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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

Return of imperial system on cards for Brexit Britain – measurements have always been political

800px-Imperial_Standards_of_Length,_Greenwich

Aashish Velkar, University of Manchester

Last year, the return of blue passports was touted as a symbol of Britain taking back control following Brexit. Some in government would now like to see Britain’s imperial measurements make a comeback. As part of a review on EU laws still in place after Brexit, the government plans to remove a ban on selling goods using only imperial units.

The collective memory of many eurosceptics is that the metric system was imposed by Europe in the 1970s upon an unwilling British public. There was political turmoil over quotidian tasks – buying milk and beer in litres rather than in pints. Metric measurements made European integration seem very real, close to home and highly undesirable to some.

A succession of European directives on measurements crystallised and maintained the sceptical view that Brussels was forcing even the Queen to obey European laws. Politicians pointed to Brussels compulsorily replacing pints and inches with litres and metres as evidence that joining Europe meant a loss of British identity.

In fact, metrication was not imposed on Britain after joining the EEC in 1975. British industrialists lobbied politicians to commit to a programme on metrication in the 1960s. The commitment to metrication and currency decimalisation precedes Britain’s entry into the European Common Market. But measurement systems have long been used as convenient tools and symbols for political ends.

The English state had unsuccessfully attempted to introduce standardised measurements at least since the Magna Carta of 1225. Indeed, the traditional imperial measurements in the form we recognise today only date to 1824, with the passage of the Weights and Measures Act.

A select committee of the British parliament in 1758 sought to remove the “despotic influence” of tradition from the British measurement system. But successive legislative reforms of Britain’s measurements in 19th century consistently rejected the decimal metric system.

Ironically, since 1960 all measurement systems worldwide – including the British and US imperial systems – are calibrated to the Système International d’Unités (SI) which in turn are based on the historical metric system devised in France during the 1790s. Continue reading “Return of imperial system on cards for Brexit Britain – measurements have always been political”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From spies, lies and doublethink to revolutionary conspiracies, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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

Black Britain Virtual Speaker Series (starting 4 Oct.)

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

Our friends and colleagues at British, Irish and Empire Studies at the University of Texas at Austin (Prof. Philippa Levine, Director) have announced their full lineup for this term’s virtual speaker series on ‘Black Britain’. Further details (including a link to register, etc.) below. UK readers, please note that the first seminar is this evening (6pm GMT).

Continue reading “Black Britain Virtual Speaker Series (starting 4 Oct.)”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

The Lend-Lease Act, written into law by US president Franklin Roosevelt in 1941, was open to any state, regardless of its political orientation © AP

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

From the captive photograph to Cold War disinformation, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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

Autumn Seminar Schedule @ExeterCIGH

Centre for Imperial and Global History Research Seminars

Autumn 2021

All seminars take place at 3.30pm-5.00pm, and are currently scheduled live and on-campus

Wednesday 22 September (Week 1), 3.30pm-5.00pm:

CIGH Social and Welcome Back to Campus

We welcome new and returning researchers back to campus and celebrate the start of the new term. Wine, nibbles, and cake provided!

Wednesday 06 October (Week 3), 3.30pm-5.00pm:

Margot Tudor, University of Exeter

‘Testing the Waters: Experiments in an International Military, 1946-1955’

Wednesday 20 October (Week 5), 3.30pm-5.00pm:

Myles Osborne, University of Colorado Boulder

‘Mau Mau and Jamaica: An African War in the Caribbean’

Wednesday 03 November (Week 7), 3.30pm-5.00pm:

Henry Knight-Lozano, University of Exeter

‘Emulation and Empire: California, Hawai‘i, and U.S. Settler Colonialism in the Late Nineteenth Century’

Wednesday 17 November (Week 9), 3.30pm-5.00pm:

Alexander Keese, Université de Genève

‘Writing a global history of forced labour in the 19th and 20th centuries – between the megatrends and two micro-laboratories of plantation labour (São Tomé e Príncipe, Suriname).’ N.B. we will assemble together on campus with Prof. Keese streaming in live from Geneva.

Wednesday 1 December (Week 11), 3.30pm-5.00pm:

Postgraduate Research Symposium

Three Exeter PGRs working on Imperial and Global History share works in progress. More details to follow soon!

To join the CIGH mailing list contact r.j.hanley@exeter.ac.uk