This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean (catalogue reference: FCO 158/6)
Guy Burgess and Donald Maclean (catalogue reference: FCO 158/6). National Archives.

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

From the Enlightenment’s decolonial future to debating the new history of capitalism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

The Enlightenment Bull Market and Its Decolonial Future

Richard Drayton
Clio @King’s

I arrived in Oxford at the end of the 1980s. I told John Prest, my moral tutor at Balliol, that I wanted to work, via the history of science, on the impact of the Enlightenment on the British Empire and how the British Empire shaped the Enlightenment. He was a kind man, and did not mock my small-island boy grandiosity. He looked puzzled, and replied, evading interestingly the empire issue, “But we didn’t have an Enlightenment. The French and Scots and Germans did. To speak of an English Enlightenment forces us to squeeze Newton, Locke, Addison, Steele, Johnson into a European cultural movement with a very different chronology, identity, and goals”.

It may be difficult for twenty-first century scholars to believe it but his view represented the orthodoxy at the time. The Enlightenment would not have been a term of trade in any English department in Britain. The key object of study and teaching which intersected with what we refer to as the Enlightenment was the Augustan age, and the key transition was, as per Walter Jackson Bate’s study From Classic to Romantic: Premises of Taste in Eighteenth-century England (1961), or Meyer Abrams‘s The Mirror and the Lamp (1951) towards romanticism. Examine, for example, Foucault’s Histoire de la Folie à l’âge classique (1961) and Les Mots et Les Choses (1966), and one can see that even in France there was an idea of a historical period with a seventeenth century ‘L’age de Raison’ and a sprawling ‘L’age classique’ which did not fit the German Enlightenment’s chronology. [continue reading]

What the New Assassin’s Creed Gets Wrong (and Right), According to a Historian

Chris Suellentrop

Bob Whitaker, a historian of modern Britain at Louisiana Tech and the host of the YouTube series History Respawned, recommends Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, theentertaining new Ubisoft game set in Victorian London. He likes the way it successfully captures the feel of the British capital in the 19th century, and he particularly likes the way the game depicts the Thames River as crowded with industrial traffic. But he still has some nits to pick.

Whitaker fact-checked the game from a historian’s perspective during an interview I conducted for my podcast, Shall We Play a Game?. You can listen to the podcast here. The excerpts below have been condensed and edited. Minor spoilers for Assassin’s Creed Syndicate follow. [continue reading]

Globalizing Labour?

Daniel Tödt

For several years, celebrating Labour History by incorporating global perspectives rebirth. The occupationally mobile group of sailors forms a particularly popular research subject. [1] The Graduate Institute Geneva teaching Gopalan Balachandran has with “Globalizing Labour?” An enlightening, differentiated and inspiring study of Indian seafarers in the era of steam navigation and imperialism (1870- 1945) submitted.

Balachandran, who had previously worked with the Indian economic history, is dedicated to having underpaid and precariously employed workers a colonial equally fluid and mobile research subject, so to speak marked the opposite end of the early history of globalization. “Globalizing Labour?” Is based on extensive archival work and so tells an empirically saturated, Global history from below ‘. [continue reading]

Burgess and Maclean: Revelations

Richard Dunley and Andrew Holt
National Archives

Burgess and Maclean. The names have been etched into postwar Britain history, synonymous with espionage, intrigue and scandal. The files released today at The National Archives show for the very first time the inside story on the investigation into these men, and reveal fascinating insights into who they were, why they betrayed their country and how they remained undetected for so long.

The story began at the rather innocuously named Cambridge University Socialist Society, where Harold ‘Kim’ Philby was elected Junior Treasurer on 9 March 1932. It was here that Philby met fellow travellers Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess. Two years later Philby was recruited by the Soviet intelligence officer Arnold Deutsch and proceeded to supply Deutsch with further candidates for recruitment, among them Maclean and Burgess. From these humble beginnings the legendary Cambridge Five spy ring was born. [continue reading]

Continuing the Debate on Slavery and Capitalism

Tom Cutterham

It’s been two and a half years since the new history of capitalism marked its arrival with the full red carpet treatment in the New York Times. So it’s about time we saw some serious and constructive critiques of the project. Robin Blackburn’s lengthy review of Empire of Cotton goes some way to bringing that Bancroft-winner back down to earth, particularly by scrutinising the concept of “war capitalism.”

But what I particularly want to share with Junto readers today is an article by the NYU sociologist John Clegg recently published in the Chicago-based journal, Critical Historical Studies. Anyone who has read Beckert, Baptist, and Johnson, or is eagerly awaiting the forthcoming volume on Slavery’s Capitalism, ought to read what Clegg has to say. [continue reading]