This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

One among many untouched photos from Soviet Siberia. See story below. Picture: TRIVA photographers
One among many untouched photos from Soviet Siberia. See story below. Picture: TRIVA photographers

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

The Financial Times is making a global demand for more historians of wine. Also, killing Hitler, and more on New Left critiques of American imperialism. Oh, and did I mention contraband photos from Soviet Siberia? Here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Serious Student Drinking

Jancis Robinson
Financial Times

[…]But it’s not just scientists we need. Recent activity in the usually sleepy port wine trade has opened my eyes to the opportunities for historians in the world of wine. For much of the second half of the 20th century wine producers were falling over themselves to demonstrate how modern and technologically proficient they were. But this century has seen a sharp about-turn, with a big return to historic methods (horses in the vineyard, bottling by phases of the moon), and tradition being valued above all else. It is no surprise then that producers have become more interested in the past – their own in particular. In the past month alone we have seen the launch of two 19th-century ports aged in wood and now available in luxury handcrafted packages from the major port shippers, Symington Family Estates and The Fladgate Partnership. The Symingtons’ Graham Ne Oublie bottling comes from a cask of 1882 tawny bought by the current generation’s great-grandfather to commemorate his arrival in Portugal from a troubled childhood in Scotland. It could hardly have more backstory.

If the Symingtons have been busy writing history, their rivals at The Fladgate Partnership (Taylor, Fonseca and Croft) could be said to have been rewriting history. In the course of some recent research I see that the start date of the Croft port house is no longer the 1678 that features in all previous literature and whose tercentenary celebrations in the Douro I enjoyed when Croft was part of Grand Met (later subsumed into Diageo). According to a recent self-published monograph and the port house’s new logo, Croft now dates from 1588, conveniently making it “the oldest company still active today as a port wine producer”. Clearly there are great opportunities for historical researchers in the wine trade [continue reading]

The German Officer Who Tried to Kill Hitler

Alex Last
BBC Magazine

On 20 July 1944, a 36-year-old German army officer, Col Claus Schenk Graf von Stauffenberg, arrived at a heavily guarded complex hidden in a forest in East Prussia. His mission was to kill Adolf Hitler.

The Wolfsschanze, or Wolf’s Lair, was Hitler’s secret headquarters on the Eastern Front. Stauffenberg was attending the daily briefing between the Fuhrer and Germany’s high command – but in his briefcase, he carried a bomb. “We were standing around and Hitler came in, and then the conference began,” recalled German army officer Gen Walter Warlimont in a BBC interview in 1967. “Suddenly the door opened again, and I happened to turn around, and I saw that a colonel came in…[continue reading]

Roundtable: U.S. Foreign Policy and the Left (Chapter 2)

Nick Witham
U.S. Intellectual History Blog

In more than half a century of labor as an historian, essayist, long-time editor of New Left Review (NLR) and central figure in the formation of the publishing house now known as Verso Books, Perry Anderson has revealed himself to be, in equal measure, a resolute analyst of the status quo, and a perceptive critic of political ideas. It is my aim in this short post to place Anderson’s recent NLR essays “Imperium” and “Consilium” in relation to his career-long dialogue with the intellectual traditions of the Anglo-American left, and to discuss what I see as his attempt to situate a left-wing “realist” approach to U.S. foreign policy within them.

Born in London in 1938, Anderson spent his early years living in California and Ireland before education at boarding school and university in England. This cosmopolitan upbringing, during which he came into regular contact with a “plurality of different cultures,” would shape the internationalism that became a distinct theme in his later political thought. [1] Anderson attended Oxford University between 1956 and 1959, and gained a political education through his campus-based experience of the world-historical events of the period. 1956, for example, was a key year in the development of the British New Left, with the dual experience of Soviet invasion of Hungary and the Suez Crisis inspiring spirited opposition to both Stalinist interventionism and the legacies of disintegrating European colonialism. Combined with the onset of the Cuban Revolution, the Vietnam War and the struggle for civil rights in the U.S., this was the conjuncture that helped to form an Anglo-American student movement that was equally skeptical of doctrinaire Communism and Western welfare democracy, and keen to express itself in new forms of radical politics, culminating in the widespread insurgencies of 1968. [continue reading]

Punished for Showing Real-Life Soviet Siberia

Polina Nechayeva
Siberian Times

An exhibition earlier this year in Novosibirsk was billed as a ‘rare chance to get back in time for see life of Siberian people in the late USSR’. The photographs – some of them shown here – were taken by Siberians Vladimir Vorobyev, Vladimir Sokolayev and Alexander Trofimov who worked in the late 1970s – the era of Soviert leader Leonid Brezhnev – Novokuznetsk Metallurgy Plant.

The trio called their group TRIVA, and while they had no written manifesto for their work, they had a definite aim: it was one that the authorities found it hard to cope with. As the photographers said, they tried to keep their cameras with them as much as they could, and took pictures not only the workers, but of various routine scenes they came across daily. Most of pictures they took were black and white but they agreed never to retouch pictures, nor to crop them. They did not do posed shots. Everything seen on the pictures should be a moment of ‘snapped reality’ where people were not asked to alter their behaviour for the camera, nor to smile. [continue reading]