This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History


Marc-William Palen

It’s time for the weekend roundup in imperial and global history.

  • To kick things off, ever wonder what a map of Africa might look like if it had never been colonized? Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon has done just that:


The Washington Post notes that ‘the map asks what Africa would look like today if colonialism had never happened. (Africa’s present-day borders were determined largely by colonialism, which continues to create lots of very big problems.) Cyon drew these boundaries based on a study of political and tribal units in 1844, the eve of Europe’s “scramble for Africa.” He oriented it with south at the top to subvert the traditional Europe-on-top orientation.’ Be sure to check out the dozens of other maps compiled by the Washington Post‘s Max Fisher.

  • Next on the list, the Wellcome Library has made freely available more than 100,000 high resolution images for commercial or personal use, ‘including manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements’:
15th-century Persian horoscope from the book of the birth of Iskandar, via the Wellcome Library.
15th-century Persian horoscope from the book of the birth of Iskandar, via the Wellcome Library.

The images can be downloaded in high-resolution directly from the Wellcome Images website for users to freely copy, distribute, edit, manipulate, and build upon as you wish, for personal or commercial use. The images range from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Francisco Goya.The earliest item is an Egyptian prescription on papyrus, and treasures include exquisite medieval illuminated manuscripts and anatomical drawings, from delicate 16th century fugitive sheets, whose hinged paper flaps reveal hidden viscera to Paolo Mascagni’s vibrantly coloured etching of an ‘exploded’ torso. Other treasures include a beautiful Persian horoscope for the 15th-century prince Iskandar, sharply sketched satires by RowlandsonGillray and Cruikshank, as well as photography from  Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of motion. John Thomson’s remarkable nineteenth century portraits from his travels in China can be downloaded, as well a newly added series of photographs of hysteric and epileptic patients at the famous Salpêtrière Hospital.

  • British imperial historian Warren Dockter has a fascinating take on Winston Churchill and Islam. He claims that Churchill’s views on Islam changed over time, and should not be viewed as monolithic. Thus, Dockter warns historians not to over-emphasize Churchill’s most infamous ‘reflection on Islam’ in The River War (1899). While it is indeed ‘especially damning of Islam’, it has also ‘been used by amateur historians, journalists, bloggers, and those with a political agenda to color Churchill’s legacy with false perceptions of Islam, creating an impression that he was both Islamophobic and a bigot.’
  • Don’t miss Exeter IGH Network’s provocative three-part series discussing whether the relationship between imperial and global history is merely one of convenience. Check out part Ipart II, and part III. Also, if you are an early career researcher of the subject, be sure to join their Researcher Database.
  • Lastly, there are some insightful reviews via H-Empire, H-War, and H-Diplo respectively on French missionaries and empire, Korean War memoirs, and British economic warfare and the First World War.