This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Japanese Americans play baseball at a WWII internment camp. Ansel Adams, "Baseball," 1943. Courtesy of Photographic Travelling Exhibitions.
Japanese Americans play baseball at a WWII internment camp. Ansel Adams, “Baseball,” 1943. Courtesy of Photographic Travelling Exhibitions.

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

From the last outposts of the British Empire to the declassification of a trove of top-secret CIA documents, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Island Life: The Last Outposts of the British Empire

Max Houghton

Over a period of six years, photographer Jon Tonks travelled in pursuit of the last vestiges of British Empire. He focused on a group of tiny, remote islands in the South Atlantic, as well as the Falkland Islands which, arguably, only register in public consciousness when Buenos Aires and London disagree. Tonks’ first trip was to Ascension Island in July 2007, a journey which began at RAF Brize Norton, Oxfordshire, and culminated on the red volcanic cones and black lava that surround Wideawake Airfield. The runway has played a critical role in military history since it was built in 1943, and became a key site during the 1982 Falklands conflict, as the world’s busiest airstrip.

Marcus Henry with his hydrogen filled weather balloon at the Meteorological Station, St Helena CREDIT: JON TONKS
Marcus Henry with his hydrogen filled weather balloon at the Meteorological Station, St Helena CREDIT: JON TONKS

The island’s remoteness was such that it provided Charles Darwin with the means of experimenting with creating an artificial cloud forest; essentially planting trees to create more rain. This 180-year-old idea, which Tonks photographed at Ascension’s Breakneck Valley, may yet be used to aid the colonisation of a similarly distant landscape: Mars. [continue reading]

The World is Watching: International Scholars, Artists, and Activists Petition to Prevent a New U.S. Military Base in Okinawa

Steve Rabson
Asia-Pacific Journal

In Okinawa after three U.S. servicemen raped a 12-year-old school girl in 1995, the U.S. and Japanese governmentssought to tamp down boiling outrage by promising to close a dangerous and noisy U.S. Marine airbase located in the center of densely populated Ginowan City. But there was a catch. The base would not close until completion of a new base at another location in the prefecture, Henoko in Nago City. Okinawans resoundingly rejected this plan, vigorously opposing it in local and prefectural elections, referenda, and in sustained public protests. For two decades they have stymied the governments of two powerful nationsdetermined to force the base on them.

In addition to government intimidation, arrests, and violent attacks by Japanese riot police and coast guard patrols, Okinawans have also faced betrayals by their own elected officials. Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama, elected in 2009, received strong voter support in Okinawa for his promise to move the airbase out of the prefecture, only to capitulate under pressure from the U.S. and his own government a year later, acceding to its construction in Okinawa. Hirokazu Nakaima, governor 2006-2014, had supported the base, but in the days leading up to the election of November 2010, he started to call for its relocation outside of Okinawa in a bid to win re-election. Then, in December 2013, he abruptly caved in to pressure from Tokyo and signed the landfill permit to allow its construction. His broken promise became the central issue in the gubernatorial campaign of November 2014. Nakaima lost this election in a landslide to current governor Takeshi Onaga who had also changed from a previously pro-base to an anti-base position. During the election and since taking office, he has repeatedly pledged to “do everything in my power” to prevent its construction. [continue reading]

Videogespräch “History goes Global – Was ist neu am Ansatz der Globalgeschichte?”

Gesche Schifferdecker

Ist die Forschungsperspektive der Global History wirklich neu? Was unterscheidet sie vom früheren Ansatz der sogenannten Universalgeschichte? Wie sieht es in anderen Weltregionen aus, wie zum Beispiel in Indien? Ist die Geschichtswissenschaft dort eher national ausgerichtet oder haben Schlüsselbegriffe wie Konnektivität, Mobilität und Diversität auch an Bedeutung gewonnen? Welche Rolle spielen Geschichtspolitik und praktische Hindernisse für transnationale Forschungskooperationen? Und können digitale kollaborative Projekte die Forschung in Archiven ersetzen?

In der mittlerweile zehnten Folge von Max meets L.I.S.A. zum Thema “History goes Global – Was ist neu am Ansatz der Globalgeschichte?” diskutieren Dr. Indra Sengupta, Wissenschaftliche Koordinatorin der Transnationalen Forschungsgruppe der Max Weber Stiftung “Poverty Reduction and Policy for the Poor between State and Private Actors: Education Policy in India since the Nineteenth Century” in Neu-Delhi und Prof. Dr. Andreas Eckert, Leiter des Internationalen Geisteswissenschaftlichen Kollegs “Arbeit und Lebenslauf in globalgeschichtlicher Perspektive” an der Humboldt-Universität und Vorstandsmitglied des Forum Transregionale Studien über die Verflechtung von Geschichtswissenschaften und Area Studies, Zusammenarbeit mit ForscherInnen weltweit und Themen, die die Geisteswissenschaften zukünftig beschäftigen werden. [continue reading]

Ansel Adams’ Rare Photos of Everyday Life in a Japanese Internment Camp

Jordan G. Teicher

Ansel Adams was already world-famous for his groundbreaking black-and-white photographs of the American West when he was invited by his friend Ralph Merritt to document the Manzanar War Relocation Center, a Japanese internment camp, where Merritt was director. It was a risky career move for a man so thoroughly established as a landscape photographer, but Adams was compelled to witness life there and make a record of it. Fifty of his photographs will be on display in the Photographic Traveling Exhibitions show, “Manzanar: The Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams,” which is at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles from Oct. 8 to Feb. 21.

Ansel Adams, Monument in Cemetery, Mt. Williamson, 1943. Courtesy of Photographic Travelling Exhibitions.
Ansel Adams, Monument in Cemetery, Mt. Williamson, 1943. Courtesy of Photographic Travelling Exhibitions.

During World War II, more than 110,000 Japanese people and Japanese Americans were detained in 10 camps along the West Coast. More than 11,000 people, the majority of whom were American citizens from the Los Angeles area, were detained at California’s Manzanar between 1942 and 1945. Adams made a series of trips there between 1943 and 1944. “He felt this was an injustice, and he actually ended up conducting interviews with people in the camp, asking people about their experiences, how they felt prior to incarceration, whether they’d experienced racial prejudice before the war. He tried to capture not only what was happening in the camps visually, but he wanted to know who these people were. He wanted to emphasize their loyalty as American citizens,” said Linde B. Lehtinen, Skirball’s assistant curator. [continue reading]

CIA Declassifies Trove of Top-Secret Documents

Jennifer Rizzo

In 1961, the CIA debuted a new type of confidential intelligence report for President John F. Kennedy, a daily morning briefing surveying the threats facing the country so top secret that it was kept even from his second-in-command. The CIA says it was directed that “under no circumstances” should it be delivered to Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, likely due to political rivalries between the two.

The detail is just one of many surrounding the key intelligence briefing the President receives each morning — known first as the President’s Intelligence Checklist, abbreviated as PICL, and then later as the President’s Daily Brief, or PDB — that were shared in the CIA’s declassification Wednesday of an unprecedented number of documents related to the briefing book. The 19,000 pages of released briefings contain details of the Cuban Missile Crisis, the erection of the Berlin Wall, the Vietnam War and other major events that shook the Kennedy and Johnson presidencies from 1961-1969. Portions of the briefs still remain redacted. [continue reading]