This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

“The Last Strike” (1912), Nedeljkovich, Brashich, and Kuharich / IWW, Cleveland (courtesy of Labadie Collection, University of Michigan)
“The Last Strike” (1912), Nedeljkovich, Brashich, and Kuharich / IWW, Cleveland (courtesy of Labadie Collection, University of Michigan)

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

From newly digitized archives of radicalism to how the Confederate flag came to Cuba, Vietnam, and Iraq, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

The Revolution Has Been Digitized: Explore the Oldest Archive of Radical Posters

Allison Meier

The oldest public collection of radical history completed a digital archive of over 2,000 posters. The Joseph A. Labadie Collection at the University of Michigan Library announced this month that its posters on anarchism, civil liberties, feminism, labor, and other political movements are online for the first time.

“Bread, Freedom and Peace” Detroit, 1962, United Automobile, Aerospace, and Agricultural Implement Workers of America (UAW), Labadie Collection.

“It’s not enough for us to preserve the artifact if people cannot see it,” Julie Herrada, Labadie Collection curator, told Hyperallergic. “Posters are a difficult format because they are fragile and can only withstand so much physical handling, so providing access to these materials while keeping them safe is a complicated process, or it was, until the technology and resources became more readily available to us.”[continue reading]

Revealed: The Role of the West in the Runup to Srebrenica’s Fall

Ed Vulliamy

The fall of Srebrenica in Bosnia 20 years ago, prompting the worst massacre in Europe since the Third Reich, was a key element of the strategy pursued by the three key western powers –Britain, the US and France – and was not a shocking and unheralded event, as has long been maintained. Eight thousand Bosnian Muslim men and boys were killed over four days in July 1995 by Bosnian Serb death squads after they took the besieged town, which had been designated a “safe area” under the protection of UN troops. The act has been declared a genocide by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague, and the Bosnian Serb leaders Radovan Karadžic and General Ratko Mladic await verdicts in trials for directing genocide.

Blame has also been placed on Dutch troops, who evicted thousands seeking refuge in their headquarters, and watched while the Serbs separated women and young children from their male quarry. But a new investigation of the mass of evidence documenting the siege suggests much wider involvement in the events leading to the fall of Srebrenica. Declassified cables, exclusive interviews and testimony to the tribunal show that the British, American and French governments accepted – and sometimes argued – that Srebrenica and two other UN-protected safe areas were “untenable” long before Mladic took the town, and were ready to cede Srebrenica to the Serbs in pursuit of a map acceptable to the Serbian president, Slobodan Miloševic, for peace at any price. [continue reading]

Why so Many Were taken in by a Spoof 1980s Proposal to Relocate Hong Kong’s Population to Northern Ireland

Cabinet Room

Many of us will have read the article in this morning’s Guardian (3 July 2015) and, like its author Owen Bowcott, initially have believed the details in it about relocating the entire population of Hong Kong to Northern Ireland. This is not in any way because the idea was a good one, or even plausible. In fact, it was a terrible notion and one that even the insensitive 1980s British Government was unlikely to have generated seriously, much less embraced (though an academic at the University of Reading did suggest it). 1983, the year from which the newly-released documents date, was the height of the Troubles, with bombs going off in Northern Ireland almost daily. Moreover, the population of the entire island of Ireland at the time was only 5 million – half a million less than the Hong Kong population that officials proposed to move!


But we chose to believe the documents because we were told that they came from an official archive, leading us to give them not just the benefit of the doubt but a special status as official recorded history. The revelation, just before 8.30am on Radio 4’s Today programme, that the papers were, in fact, deliberate spoofs (apparently the word “spoof” is written across the front of one of them) then abruptly blew this notion out of the water. [continue reading]

What was the Confederate Flag Doing in Cuba, Vietnam, and Iraq?

Greg Grandin

In June 1898, just weeks after US troops landed in Cuba, two train-car loads of Confederate flags arrived in Atlanta for a coming reunion of Southern veterans of the war. The Stars and Bars would soon festoon the city Union General William T. Sherman had burned to the ground. At the very center of the celebration’s main venue stood a 30-foot Confederate flag, flanked by a Cuban and a US flag. Speech after speech extolled “sublime” war—not just the Civil War but all the wars that made up the 19th century—with Mexico, against Native Americans, and now versus Spain. “The gallantry and heroism of your sons as they teach the haughty Spaniard amid the carnage of Santiago to honor and respect the flag of our country, which shall float forever over an ‘indissoluble union of indestructible states,’” was how one Southern veteran put it.

War with Spain allowed “our boys” to once more be “wrapped in the folds of the American flag,” said General John Gordon, commander of the United Confederate Veterans, in remarks opening the proceedings. Their heroism, he added, has led “to the complete and permanent obliteration of all sectional distrusts and to the establishment of the too long delayed brotherhood and unity of the American people.” In this sense, the War of 1898 was alchemic, transforming the “lost cause” of the Confederacy (that is, the preservation of slavery) into a crusade for world freedom. The South, Gordon said, was helping to bring “the light of American civilization and the boon of Republican liberty to the oppressed islands of both oceans.” [continue reading]