Professor Slobodian tells a remarkable story concerning the controversial Cold War German reception of one of the world’s most printed books: Mao’s Little Red Book.
In 1967, West Germans bought over one-hundred-thousand copies of Mao’s Book of Quotations, also known as the Little Red Book. Three editions were sold, each bearing a distinct ideological imprint. Alongside the familiar, plastic-bound edition of the Beijing Foreign Languages Press was a paperback published by the left-liberal Fischer Press. Translated and edited by West German students of Sinology, the Fischer edition provided a scholarly perspective on the Cultural Revolution that was broadly sympathetic, signaling its orientation with a cover photograph of a young girl and an elderly woman in a benign moment of intergenerational communication [left]. The third edition [right] of Mao’s book of quotations, published by the anti-communist Marienburg Press had the title, The Mao Zedong Breviary: Catechism of 700 Million. The editor, a minor functionary in the Economics Ministry, Kurt C. Steinhaus, warned of a coming race war led by the Chinese against the world’s white populations. The publishers declared that their goal in releasing the book was to “show Mao in all his severity.” “It is necessary,” they said, “to give Germans and Europeans the creeps.” Continue reading “Reading Mao’s Little Red Book in Divided Germany”→
There has long been agreement among historians of Algeria’s violent decolonization that particular massacres and, more particularly, the retributions they provoked, decisively altered the nature of the conflict. Massacre, it is averred, changed the cultural codes, the military rules, and the permissible limits to mass violence within Algeria’s population and between French security forces and local insurgents.
Why this should be the case remains harder to explain. The demonstrative horror of mass killing intentionally shrinks the middle ground. It destroys the prospects for compromise, denying political and personal space to the otherwise non-committal. Meant to polarize, its violence signifies the ultimate rhetoric of shock. Little wonder that historians of Algeria’s war concur that massacres served as decisive conflict escalators, whether strategically, symbolically, or both. Continue reading “Rhetoric of Massacre and Reprisal in Algeria’s War of Independence”→
On 3 March 1959, eleven Mau Mau detainees were beaten to death by their British guards amid an attempt to force the prisoners to undertake manual labour. What is now known as the Hola Camp Massacre has widely been seen as a seminal moment, one that undermined the legitimacy of the British Empire. In a celebrated Commons speech on the affair, Enoch Powell declared that it was not possible to have ‘African standards in Africa, Asian standards in Asia and perhaps British standards here at home […] We cannot, we dare not, in Africa of all places, fall below our own highest standards in the acceptance of responsibility.’
The Imperial and Global History Network for early career scholars will be holding its first conference on 19th and 20th June 2014 at the University of Exeter. The conference will bring together early career scholars from across the world, discussing a range of topics including America’s Drone Empire, the anti-Apartheid movement in South Africa, and Treaty Port China. Registration for the conference is now open and information about how to register can be found here.
Last week, I came across two provocative blog posts, at The Junto and the Imperial and Global History Network (IGHN), on teaching global history that got me thinking reflectively about my own recent experiences of approaching American and British imperial history from a global historical perspective. The big takeaways from both pieces seem to be: 1) teaching global history is a challenge not just for students but for teachers; and 2) that the net positive from teaching history from a global vantage point at the graduate level far outweighs said challenges. However, The Junto’s Jonathan Wilson concludes by quite explicitly questioning whether global historical approaches are in fact suitable for the first-year undergraduate classroom. Continue reading “Is Global History Suitable for Undergraduates?”→