Utilizing a global historical approach, Professor Goscha explores the dynamic origins of Vietnamese Republicanism, in part I of this two-part Forum series.
Just as nationalism, liberalism, and republicanism spread across the Atlantic world in the 18th and 19th centuries, underpinning a series of revolutions stretching from Philadelphia to Paris by way of Port au Prince and Bogota, so too did people, their books, papers, and print technology move such powerful ideas across the Indian Ocean into East Asia with similar effect by the turn of the 20th century. This global transfer of ideas, however, did not move in a straight line. Nor did it necessarily arrive through the colonial connection, even though Euro-American imperial states had colonized much of the Afro-Asian world during this period.
We all know that history isn’t just about facts; any historical event can be interpreted in a variety of different ways, and these interpretations can be used intentionally to serve particular interests and agendas – agendas which are often set by the state. A national museum, for example, is not a neutral presentation of that country’s history, but its exhibitions are constructed in order to present that nation’s historical self-image. The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore – although housed in a building named in honour of Queen Victoria – makes little reference to British imperial rule, instead aiming to reconnect Singapore with its Chinese and Indian cultures of origin. Similarly, Hanoi’s National Museum of Vietnamese History provides a defence of Communism and independence by providing accounts of French imperial cruelty.
To mark the important role that trade unions have played in popular protests in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, History & Policy’s Trade Union Forum and the Trades Union Congress will host a one day conference. The conference will reflect on the relationship between trade unions and the state in the Global South, as well as the role of labour movements in popular protests from the end of imperial rule to the present day.
Rachel Herrmann Lecturer in Early Modern American History, University of Southampton
I’m a firm believer in the idea that we need to hold our students to high standards when we teach history. I am also (perhaps somewhat paradoxically) a firm believer in the idea that to get students enthused about meeting those standards, we need to make history approachable.
And so I sometimes pander.
This semester I’m teaching what is essentially a colonial America class called “Accommodation, Violence and Networks in Colonial America.” I’ve included a week on the Atlantic World—no small feat given the fact that one of my colleagues devotes a whole semester to it—and so I had to grapple with reducing the notion of Atlantic empires into something that was easily digestible. To deal with the problem of summarizing the key identifying features of the Spanish, Dutch, French, and English empires in the early modern period, I turned to the delightfully dysfunctional Bluth family.
For the (woefully) uninformed, Arrested Development follows the trials and tribulations of the California-based Bluth family, a once-wealthy clan that’s fallen from grace, and is composed, for the most part, of terrible, selfish, egotistical people. The show aired from 2003 to 2006, garnered a cult following, and enjoyed a long-anticipated revival season on Netflix last year.
I use Arrested Development at the start of my Atlantic World lecture to paint a broad (and admittedly simplistic) picture of how the different Atlantic empires functioned on their own terms and in their interactions with each other. I should point out that this portion of the lecture takes up no more than five or ten out of our forty-five minutes, but I think it’s worth it because my caricatures provide students with a starting point from which they can challenge what I’ve told them about Atlantic history. Continue reading “Atlantic Empires in Arrested Development”→
Here are some of the Centre’s top reads for over the weekend:
*Historians are busy exploring why the First World War remains so fascinating to school children. Could it be the war’s angst-ridden poetry?
*The Great War isn’t the only conflict stirring up controversy this year. According to the Globe & Mail, The Conservative Harper government has now been warned by bureaucrats that its planned 110th anniversary commemoration of the Boer War should be peripheral at most. According to documents obtained under the Access to Information Act, civil servants warned: Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”→
Within the field of imperial history, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) is commonly associated with the anti-imperial economic doctrine that arose in the mid nineteenth century alongside the rise of Free Trade England. This ideology drew inspiration from Smith’s condemnation of the British Empire for being unnecessarily mercantilistic, expensive, and atavistic. Smith’s critique of imperialism came to be known as “Cobdenism”, named after Victorian free trade apostle Richard Cobden, the anti-imperial radical who led the overthrow of England’s protectionist Corn Laws in 1846.
But the longer imperial legacy of the Wealth of Nations is much more . . . complicated. Smith’s work was transformed into an amorphous text regarding the imperial question throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Adam Smith had left behind an ambiguous legacy on the subject of empire: a legacy that left long-term effects upon subsequent British imperial debates.
“1989” has become shorthand both for the triumph of human rights over state-socialist dictatorship and the subsequent implementation of a “neoliberal” reform agenda. Yet the coalescence of these two phenomena in Eastern Europe twenty-five years ago is quite surprising once we focus on the prehistory of 1989. Following the crooked paths that led to the annus mirabilis is thus a great opportunity to assess the transformation of human rights discourses during the 1980s.
Twenty five years ago, on 6 February 1989, representatives of Poland’s government and of the illegal democratic opposition began negotiations on political and economic reforms. Inaugurating their meetings at a round table that had been crafted specifically for this occasion, they set events in motion that became a major catalyst for the collapse of the “Soviet bloc.” Continue reading “Human Rights, Neoliberalism, and 1989”→
What might a historian of modern empire uncover within the long-running cartoon book series, Asterix the Gaul? Orientalism, French cultural anxiety about American neo-imperialism, and fears of cultural corruption in the face of the forces of global commercialism, of course.
Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman Dwight E. Stanford Chair in U.S. Foreign Relations, San Diego State University, & Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
Why does international turmoil so often raise the question at home and abroad, “What’s the United States going to do about it?” Why not Mexico, Iran, France, or Switzerland?
Observers of today’s world are confronted by the fact that the U.S. exercises an unusual function as the nation with the greatest—yet, nonetheless, very limited—power to determine outcomes in foreign conflicts. This influence raises important questions. Why does any country play such a role, and who appointed the United States? Is America an exploitative empire that holds other nations in thrall, as many revisionists believe, or a benign hegemon that prevents the world from spiraling into violence and poverty, as realists do? And, are these the only two possible answers? Continue reading “Playing Umpire: America and the World”→
Centre Director Andrew Thompson explains that if globalization is not to silence the past, we need to delve back into its history – its imperial history.
‘Globalization’ is among the biggest intellectual challenges facing the humanities and the social sciences today. It is a concept that conveys the sense that we are living in an age of transformation, where change is the only constant, nothing can be taken for granted, and no-one knows what the future might bring. But globalization is also much more than that. To borrow the phrase of the historical sociologist, Mike Savage, it is an ‘epoch description’, something that seeks to define for the current generation the very meaning of social change. By thinking of ourselves as part of a globalized world, we are saying something about how over time our identity has changed. We are locating ourselves in time, differentiating ourselves from our predecessors, signalling a break with what went before. Continue reading “Imperial Globalization – The Presence of the Past and the Crucible of Empire”→
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