This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen

A piece of history: This photograph of an armoured Rolls-Royce helped researchers track down a desert camp (pictured) from which Lawrence of Arabia launched guerilla attacks on German-allied Turks.

Ready or not, here is the weekend roundup in imperial and global history:

*It is amazing what still remains to be uncovered at the National Archives. A Bristol University archaeologist has discovered a secret desert camp used by Lawrence of Arabia. It appears to be intact nearly a century later:

The hideout in modern-day Jordan was still littered with spent cartridges and broken gin bottles when a team of archaeologists found it – thanks to an RAF pilot’s vaguely-sketched map. It was used as a vital base by Thomas Edward Lawrence, the British intelligence officer who would pass into legend for his guerilla raids against Turkish forces in the First World War. But the camp would have gone unnoticed for many years more had it not been for a chance discovery in the National Archives. John Winterburn, an archaeologist at Bristol University, found a loosely-sketched map from 1918 by a pilot who recalled the camp from memory after a reconnaisance flight.

*A great resource for historians of slavery: Emory University has launched a new Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database, collating 35,000 slave voyages, providing researchers with estimates, voyage tracking, and a database of slave names. UT Austin’s blog, Not Even Past, has an excellent review of the new resource:

Screenshot of “Wind and ocean currents of the Atlantic basins” (Emory University)
Screenshot of “Wind and ocean currents of the Atlantic basins” (Emory University)

[It] helps users understand the vast proportions of this perverse exodus. The site pieces together historical data from 35,000 slave voyages between 1500 and 1900 and arranges them onto graphs and maps, offering readers a geographic, demographic, and even environmental context for the slave trade . . . . The sheer numbers documented in the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade Database are astonishing . . . the story this site wants to tell is a big and highly important one. The African slave trade had a global reach; it was an environmental force as well as an economic one; and it displaced millions upon millions of men and women from their homes. Visualizing the statistics makes the global reach of their human toll palpable in new ways.

*Also, be sure to check out the new digital resource, Forward to Freedom: The History of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement 1959-1994. The Anti-Apartheid collection held at the Bodleian Library at Oxford has an interactive website, the Guardian reports:

Featuring archive highlights such as iconic posters from campaigns against the death penalty for the Rivonia accused and the 1970 Springbok cricket tour, footage from the Nelson Mandela tribute concert at Wembley Stadium in 1988, and and letters from Margaret Thatcher arguing against sanctions on South Africa. The site also includes interviews with more than 50 anti-apartheid activists, including the Specials’ Jerry Dammers (author of protest song Free Nelson Mandela), actor Louis Mahoney, trade unionists Jack Jones and Ron Todd, the politician David Steel, who was AAM president in the 1960s, churchman David Haslam and journalists such as the Guardian’s Victoria Brittain, as well as grassroots campaigners such as the students who called for university disinvestment. A related pop-up exhibition makes its debut at the House of Commons in June, and an educational pack is being prepared for secondary schools.

Any other suggestions?