This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

“An Aerial Battle.” What France would look like in the year 2000. Jean-Marc Côté, c. 1900

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

From an imperial view of women’s suffrage to what people in 1900 thought the year 2000 would look like, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

What Did the Suffragette Movement in Britain Really Look Like?

Anna Leszkiewicz
New Statesman

The release of Suffragette has reopened a conversation about diversity in feminism, the whitewashing of the film industry, and attitudes to race in the women’s suffrage movement.

Sophia Duleep Singh Selling the Suffragette, 1913.
Sophia Duleep Singh Selling the Suffragette, 1913.

When Time Out interviewed the cast of Suffragette this week, it photographed Meryl Streep, Carey Mulligan, Romola Garai and Anne-Marie Duff in T-shirts emblazoned with an Emmeline Pankhurst quote: “I’d rather be a rebel than a slave.” Many commented on the racial insensitivity of this, emphasising that comparing white women’s oppression to slavery, or implying that the slavery could be a choice, betrays an lack of concern for the experiences of non-white women. (Pankhurst’s use of the term “rebel” also translates particularly badly to an American audience: the Confederate flag is often called the “rebel flag”.) [continue reading]

Secret Archive Offers Fresh Insight into Nixon Presidency

David E. Hoffman
Washington Post

President Richard Nixon believed that years of aerial bombing in Southeast Asia to pressure North Vietnam achieved “zilch” even as he publicly declared it was effective and ordered more bombing while running for reelection in 1972, according to a handwritten note from Nixon disclosed in a new book by Bob Woodward.

Nixon’s note to Henry Kissinger, then his national security adviser, on Jan. 3, 1972, was written sideways across a top-secret memo updating the president on war developments. Nixon wrote: “K. We have had 10 years of total control of the air in Laos and V.Nam. The result = Zilch. There is something wrong with the strategy or the Air Force.” The day before he wrote the “zilch” note, Nixon was asked about the military effectiveness of the bombing by Dan Rather of CBS News in an hour-long, prime-time television interview. “The results have been very, very effective,” Nixon declared. [continue reading]

Podcast Interview: Kendrick Oliver on the Space Age

On October 4, 1957, the Soviet Union launched Sputnik 1, so this October seems as good a time as any for a podcast on the Space Age! In this episode you can listen to Professor Kendrick Oliver as he talks to Rachel Herrmann about the Space Age, evangelicals, and his new work on cosmology. You’ll find out what the author C. S. Lewis has to do with the Space Age, whether the Space Age was driven by religious or secular ideals, and why navy divers were so reluctant to open the command module of the Apollo 16 crew.  [listen to the podcast]

The White Man in That Photo

Riccardo Gazzaniga
Films for Action

Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City, and it certainly deceived me for a long time.


I always saw the photo as a powerful image of two barefoot black men, with their heads bowed, their black-gloved fists in the air while the US National Anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner,” played. It was a strong symbolic gesture – taking a stand for African American civil rights in a year of tragedies that included the death of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy. It’s a historic photo of two men of color. For this reason I never really paid attention to the other man, white, like me, motionless on the second step of the medal podium. I considered him as a random presence, an extra in Carlos and Smith’s moment, or a kind of intruder. Actually, I even thought that that guy – who seemed to be just a simpering Englishman – represented, in his icy immobility, the will to resist the change that Smith and Carlos were invoking in their silent protest. But I was wrong. [continue reading]

What People in 1900 Thought the Year 2000 Would Look Like

Ana Swanson
Washington Post

There are few things as fascinating as seeing what people in the past dreamed about the future. “France in the Year 2000” is one example. The series of paintings, made by Jean-Marc Côté and other French artists in 1899, 1900, 1901 and 1910, shows artist depictions of what life might look like in the year 2000. The first series of images were printed and enclosed in cigarette and cigar boxes around the time of the 1900 World Exhibition in Paris, according to the Public Domain Review, then later turned into postcards.

“The Rural Postman.” Jean-Marc Côté, c. 1900.

Lots of their ideas involve mechanized devices, flying, or a combination of the two. Some, strangely, involve people interacting in a very close and personal way with marine life. As Open Culture points out, however, there are no images of space travel. [continue reading]