From connecting US football and decolonization to new histories of black cinema, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
R. Joseph Parrott
Not Even Past
As football returns to living rooms across the United States, it’s worth remembering that the sport has an international appeal for many who have spent time in this country. Fifty years ago this week, one such foreign fan launched a revolution from Tanzania. Eduardo Mondlane, the first president of the Mozambique Liberation Front (Frente de Libertação de Moçambique or FRELIMO), loved American sports, especially professional football. Beginning in September 1964, he guided an armed struggle for the independence of his homeland against imperial Portugal, but he still did his best to make time on Sunday nights to settle in for a game.
Mondlane watched American football games at the Kilimanjaro Hotel in Tanzania’s capital of Dar es Salaam, near where FRELIMO operated its headquarters in exile. The modern glass-clad block is still down the road from the whitewashed façade of St. Joseph Cathedral on the city’s waterfront. In the 1960s, it was a popular gathering place for revolutionaries from across the southern third of the continent – Angola, Rhodesia (modern Zimbabwe), South Africa, and Southwest Africa (Namibia) – which was still under colonial rule. On Sundays, though, Mondlane carved out a little piece of America. [continue reading]
Deep in the Cambodian jungle lie the remains of a vast medieval city, which was hidden for centuries. New archaeological techniques are now revealing its secrets – including an elaborate network of temples and boulevards, and sophisticated engineering. In April 1858 a young French explorer, Henri Mouhot, sailed from London to south-east Asia. For the next three years he travelled widely, discovering exotic jungle insects that still bear his name.
Today he would be all but forgotten were it not for his journal, published in 1863, two years after he died of fever in Laos, aged just 35. Mouhot’s account captured the public imagination, but not because of the beetles and spiders he found. Readers were gripped by his vivid descriptions of vast temples consumed by the jungle: Mouhot introduced the world to the lost medieval city of Angkor in Cambodia and its romantic, awe-inspiring splendour. “One of these temples, a rival to that of Solomon, and erected by some ancient Michelangelo, might take an honourable place beside our most beautiful buildings. It is grander than anything left to us by Greece or Rome,” he wrote. [continue reading]
New York Times
The new English translation of Bettina Stangneth’s “Eichmann Before Jerusalem: The Unexamined Life of a Mass Murderer,” is the latest in a long line of scholarship that aims to illuminate the inner life of Adolf Eichmann, one of Nazi Germany’s most notorious, and most analyzed, figures. Based on troves of memoir, notes and interviews given by Eichmann in Argentina, where he lived under the pseudonym Ricardo Clement between 1950 and 1960, it is an impressive historical study — one that underscores the fanatical nature of Eichmann’s anti-Semitism. In ‘Eichmann in Jerusalem’ and after, it was Kant, not Heidegger, who was foremost on Hannah Arendt’s mind.
Much of the reaction to the book hinges on how these new findings reflect on Hannah Arendt’s “Eichmann in Jerusalem,” her 1963 work based on her witnessing of Eichmann’s trial, which famously depicted him as the embodiment of “the banality of evil.” This is not surprising, given the echo in Stangneth’s English title, and the enduring controversy generated by Arendt’s interpretation, which arouses outrage for allegedly diminishing Eichmann’s moral culpability for his role in the Holocaust. While discussion of the original 2011 German edition of Stangneth’s book centered on the circle of neo-Nazi sympathizers in Argentina and their hopes to influence postwar German politics, and on Stangneth’s claim that German governments had resisted bringing Eichmann to trial there, American commentators on the English edition have mainly ignored those issues, choosing instead to turn the trial of Adolf Eichmann into the trial of Hannah Arendt. [continue reading]
John Duke Kisch
A fascinating new book charts not only the increasing presence and importance of African Americans in film, but also how they have been portrayed on posters by artists in Hollywood and beyond. John Duke Kisch, who compiled the book from his personal collection of posters, explains the significance of some of the key images. [continue reading]