This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History


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

From Glasgow’s role in the slave trade to ending the US embargo against Cuba, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Revealing Glasgow’s Links to Slave Trade

Angela McManus
Evening Times

“People are starting to think about Glasgow’s colonial past in a new way, and it can only be described as a cultural awakening. It is historians as well as academics, there’s a new historiographical understanding,” says the author of the acclaimed book, It Wisnae Us! The Truth About Glasgow and Slavery.

The city, lest we forget, built its 18th century fortune on the sugar, tobacco and slavery trade with Africa and the Americas. “I was almost a lone voice seven years ago when I started doing walking tours and exploring the public side of it. Now I see a real awareness.” August 1 has been celebrated as Emancipation Day across the countries of the Caribbean since the Slavery Abolition Act of 1833 ended slavery in the British Empire. As part of that cultural reawakening, it is being marked for the first time in Glasgow this year. [continue reading]

First Day of Terror

Chris Dietrich
The Appendix

Carols echoed through the Christkindmarkt in Vienna on the morning of December 21, 1975. The sky was overcast, and trees stood leafless in the neighboring parks. The edelweiss flowers adorning many of the stalls and shop windows were past their bloom, and their petals and leaves had begun to crumble.

Shoppers and stall-minders alike—transfixed by the edelweiss, roasting chestnuts, mulled wine, and gingerbread—paid little mind to the building across the street. That concrete-and-glass rectangle, shared by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and the multinational oil giant Texaco, was one of many drab and unassuming buildings that had popped up amidst the grandeur of Austro-Hungarian modernist buildings and parks. But if the architecture was neither eclectic nor unusual, the moment that would soon face its occupants was. As six casually dressed young people carrying black Adidas bags turned the corner and began to approach the building, the oil ministers from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq, Venezuela, Libya, and Algeria had begun another round of discussions about the price of oil. Their meetings had been headline material for over two years, since October 1973. [continue reading]

Video Games, Drugs, and Violence: The Real and Virtual Lives of North and Noriega

Mark Seddon
History Matters

Manuel Noriega, the former dictator of Panama, is in the news after deciding to sue the video-game publisher Activision for using his likeness in Call of Duty: Black Ops IIwithout permission. The eighty-year-old Noriega, who is serving a twenty-year prison sentence in Panama for human rights abuses, is seeking payment of the ‘lost profits’ he feels owed.

While news outlets have argued that the lawsuit ‘beggars belief’, it also serves as a reminder of Noriega’s role in the Cold War and, in particular, his relationship with Oliver North, with whom he planned the overthrow of the Nicaraguan Sandinista government. North, who also makes a cameo in Black Ops II, advised the game’s creators and featured prominently in its advertising campaign. But, despite Activision’s protestations about historical accuracy, the game obscures the horrifying reality of Latin America’s Cold War. [continue reading]

Hillary Clinton on Cuba: ‘We Should Advocate for End of Embargo’

Peter Nicholas
Wall Street Journal

Hillary Clinton made a case Thursday for lifting the embargo on Cuba, describing it as “Castro’s best friend” and signaling she does not fear any potential political backlash in Florida by suggesting the U.S. normalize relations with the island nation. In an appearance in New York hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations, the former secretary of state said, “I think we should advocate for the end of the embargo. We should advocate for normalizing relations and see what they (Cuban officials) do.” […] The economic embargo against Cuba has been in place for more than a half-century. Over that period, major presidential candidates have tread carefully in discussing the embargo for fear of alienating voters in the voter-rich swing state of Florida.

But the politics surrounding Cuba and the Castro brothers have been changing. President Barack Obama won Florida twice, even though he had once called for doing away with the embargo and — as a first term president — loosened Cuban travel restrictions. Mrs. Clinton has been out promoting her new book, “Hard Choices,” in which she discloses that toward the end of her stint as secretary of state she urged Mr. Obama to “take another look at our embargo.” [continue reading]