This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Indian infantrymen in France in October 1914 during WorldWar I. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images
Indian infantrymen in France in October 1914 during WorldWar I. Photo: Hulton Archive/Getty Images

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

From the woman’s First World War to the man who posted himself to Australia, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

A Woman’s War 1914-1918

Emily Stidston, Lauren Willmott, Vicky Iglikowski, and Emily Ward-Willis
National Archives

Many of you will no doubt have heard of, if not yet seen, the recent film Testament of Youth (based on a best-selling book of the same name) which tells the story of Vera Brittain’s experiences during the First World War. Brittain was studying at a hard won place at Oxford University at the time war was declared. However, as men she knew and loved started to die, she felt that she needed to do something for the war effort and so joined the British Red Cross Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) as a nurse. She, like many others, served in military hospitals both at home and abroad, tending to wounded soldiers, of whom there were soon to many to count.

But Vera Brittain was only one of thousands of women who enrolled into nursing services, such as the VAD, and military services, such as the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), the Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS or Wrens) and the Women’s Royal Air Force (WRAF) during the First World War.  These women made a huge and important contribution to the war effort and their roles must not be forgotten. So, during Women’s History Month this March, here at The National Archives we are commemorating women’s achievement by holding a number of events. These events include a poetry reading, which gives voice to the experiences of ordinary women living through these extraordinary times, and a webinar which will help trace your ancestors in the women’s nursing and military services. [continue reading]

100 Years of Singapore Mutiny — a WWI Crisis in the British Empire

Manimugdha S SharmaTimes of India

The Indian subcontinent came to a standstill, well almost, on Sunday, February 15, as India and Pakistan battled over 22 yards in Australia. Shops were down, people stayed indoors watching the match, and nobody talked about anything else but the match.

Social media was also abuzz with war cries and victory calls by cricket fans of both countries. It didn’t occur to many that exactly a hundred years ago, on February 15, 1915, people from their country had brought Singapore to a standstill in what was one of the darkest episodes in that country’s history—the Singapore Mutiny. [continue reading]

Japan’s 1905 Incorporation of Dokdo/Takeshima

Yŏng-ho Ch’oe
Asia-Pacific Journal

The year 2015 marks the 70th year of ending Japanese colonial rule over Korea. For many years there was a strong movement toward reconciliation between Japan and Korea based on mutual friendship, respect and trust. It is heartbreaking, however, to see the momentum of this current receding in recent years. One contributing factor in this unfortunate trend is the dispute over Dokdo/Takeshima.

Considering the long history of interactions between Korea and Japan going back to antiquity, the two countries have had a rather remarkably good friendly and mutually beneficial relationship, in which such historical incidences as the Hideyoshi invasion in the 1590s and Japanese colonial rule in the twentieth century should be considered more as painful aberrations than as normal practice. For genuine reconciliation, it is imperative for both Korea and Japan to face their history with honesty and humility. It behooves us all to remember what the Japanese Shogun Tsunayoshi said in the late seventeenth century: Keeping friendship with Korea is more important than fighting over a small useless island. [continue reading]

The Man Who Posted Himself to Australia

In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he decided to post himself in a wooden crate.

“I just got in the thing and went. What was there to be frightened of? I’m not frightened of the dark so I just sat there. “It’s like when I travel now if I go overseas. There’s the seat. Sit in it, and go.” Reg Spiers makes it sound very straightforward more than half a century later, but it caused a media storm in Australia at the time. He explains his attitude like this: “I’ve come up with this mad scheme to get back to Australia in a box. Who can say it won’t work? Let’s give it a shot.” [continue reading]