Anticolonialism, Antifascism, and Imperial History

 Antifascist demonstrators in London, October 1935. Photo: National Media Museum/SSPL
Antifascist demonstrators in London, October 1935. Photo: National Media Museum/SSPL.

John Munro
Saint Mary’s University[1]

There’s a lot to be said for emphasizing the structuring role of colonialism and anticolonialism across the twentieth century. To contextualize the world wars, the Cold War, and contemporary global capitalism as embedded in a larger set of imperial continuities is to offer an indispensable corrective to the overemphasis of 1945 as epistemic break; the embellishment of US history as an empire-free zone; or the exaggeration of the distance between imperialism and free trade. Fredrik Petersson’s astute Versailles-to-Bandung emplotment of transnational anticolonial activism is thus a very compelling one, especially when read alongside several concurring periodizations.[2] But how we might conceive of antifascism in this empire-centered genealogy requires further attention. Whether antifascism was itself an anticolonialism, in other words, matters much for how we make sense of the twentieth century. Continue reading “Anticolonialism, Antifascism, and Imperial History”

Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History

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Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History

Gareth Curless and Yann Beliard

The European Labour History Network is hosting its first conference at the University of Turin from 14-16 December 2015. The aim of the conference is to connect historians working in the sub-fields associated with Labour History, one of which is imperial labour history. CIGH’s Gareth Curless and Yann Beliard, Université Sorbonne Nouvelle, are responsible for co-ordinating the Imperial Labour History Group. As part of the conference, Gareth and Yann will be organising a workshop on the subject of imperial labour history. The objective of the workshop is to consider imperial labour history within the wider context of imperial historiography, investigating how labour historians can contribute to ‘new imperial history’, as well as emerging trends resulting from the ‘global’ or ‘transnational turn’. The Call for Papers can be found below and the organisers would welcome contributions from not just historians but also political scientists and social movement theorists:

The ‘cultural turn’ has revitalised the study of imperialism, moving imperial history away from its traditional focus on administrative and diplomatic elites, conquest and administration, and the geo-politics of empire, to subjects such as race, gender, and sexuality. Few studies, however, have focused on the concepts of class and labour. Such neglect is unsurprising but it is detrimental both to the study of empire and to the exploration of how imperialism affected metropolitan societies. Continue reading “Call for Papers: New Directions in Imperial Labour History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Putin-and-Bush-in-Texas-JEFF-MITCHELL-Reuters

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

From the US legacy of apartheid to Putin’s plot to get Texas to secede, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

The Eagle & the Dragon: Globalization and European Dreams of Conquest in China and America in the Sixteenth Century

Eagle-vs.-Dragon-510x269

Juan José Morales

Cross-posted from Asian Review of Books

The first Portuguese embassy to China, headed by Tomé Pires, set out from Canton in 1517, reaching the capital Peking in December 1520. Although they carried gifts and letters from King Manuel, the Portuguese did not see the Emperor but were treated as spies, thrown into jail and some executed.

Meanwhile, in November 1519, a Spanish expedition led by Hernán Cortés entered Mexico-Tenochtitlán where they were received with spectacular pomp by the emperor Moctezuma. Months later, in August 1521, the Aztec capital would fall to the Spanish, opening the door to their conquest of much of the American continent.

These first encounters between the Iberians and the two world civilizations of Mexico and China took place therefore around the same time although with completely different outcomes. Serge Gruzinski’s The Eagle and the Dragon, the title referring to the iconic symbols of Mexico and China, is a groundbreaking study that sets to explain the timing and implications of these events. Continue reading “The Eagle & the Dragon: Globalization and European Dreams of Conquest in China and America in the Sixteenth Century”

More to NATO than Plato: The Atlantic World and the Cold War in Early American History

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A Map of New Belgium, New England, and Some Parts of Virginia, by Nicolas Visscher (1618–1679).

Adam Nadeau
University of New Brunswick

In 1949, the French historian Fernand Braudel completed his first book, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II. Piecing together a history of the sixteenth-century Mediterranean that transcended religious and national boundaries, Braudel ushered in the enduring trend of utilising sea and ocean basins as frameworks of historical analysis. Over the next few decades, a series of early American historians would likewise centre their work around maritime space, following European commerce and politics out of the Mediterranean Sea and across the Atlantic Ocean to America, where, in the late eighteenth century, Florentine republicanism, English common law, and the European Enlightenment merged to create the United States, the New World ‘Empire of liberty’ that was to inherit global hegemony in the mid-twentieth century.[1]

Though quick to incorporate cultural, demographic, and social studies of the region, the Atlantic World was initially conceived as a political-economic project, a heuristic device that accounted for the continuity between European and American imperialism. As a result, twentieth-century American historians were very much the products of their time, constructing an Atlantic World that reflected the bifurcated international climate of the post-war era. In doing so, however, their stories tended to neglect the historical interconnectedness that existed between early modern Eastern and Western Europe.

Ironically, just as Braudel was writing to counter notions that the Mediterranean had been a backwater, Western Europe and North America were politically and militarily reorganizing themselves around the Atlantic Ocean. In 1949, the same year that The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World was published, twelve of the modern incarnations of the historical Atlantic powers in Italy, Iberia, France, the Low Countries, and Britain, along with their former colonies in Canada and the United States, formed the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), an intergovernmental military alliance of collective defence against the Soviet Union. Turkey joined soon thereafter in 1952, followed by West Germany in 1955. In Eastern Europe, meanwhile, the Soviet Union spearheaded the Warsaw Pact and the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, institutions analogous to NATO and the European Common Market in the West.

In the wake of the post-war partition of Europe and the onset of the Cold War, the Atlantic Ocean basin was reconceptualised as an exclusively Western European space. And historians, in a sort of primitive accumulation, began to pull chapters from various Western national histories for incorporation into a larger Atlantic World narrative, one with its ultimate destination in the New World. It was during this period that the medieval Norse expeditions to northeastern North America gained widespread acceptance among American scholars, and it was Americanists with their careers rooted firmly in the Cold War who reframed the story of colonial America by emphasizing how migration from France, Germany, the Low Countries, and Scandinavia was as central as that from the British Isles.[2] The emergence of Atlantic history, as David Armitage aptly puts it, thus ‘owed more to NATO than it did to Plato.’[3] Continue reading “More to NATO than Plato: The Atlantic World and the Cold War in Early American History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

John Brown

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

From the last known survivor of the Mexican Revolution to how John Brown’s Body crossed the Pacific, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

First Global Humanitarianism Research Academy, 13-24 July 2015

Fabian Klose
Leibniz Insitute of European History, Mainz
Follow on Twitter @FabianMKlose

Cross-posted from Humanitarianism & Human Rights

In about four weeks the first Global Humanitarianism Research Academy (GHRA) will meet for one week of academic training at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz before continuing with archival research at the ICRC Archives in Geneva.The Research Academy addresses early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present.

GHRA announcement

The GHRA received a huge amount of applications from an extremely talented group of scholars from more than fifteen different countries around the world. The selection committee considered each proposal very carefully and has selected these 12 participants for the GHRA 2015: Continue reading “First Global Humanitarianism Research Academy, 13-24 July 2015”