The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History by Tonio Andrade (Princeton University Press, 2016).
Reviewed by Francis P. Sempa
Cross-posted from Asian Review of Books
Tonio Andrade, a professor at Emory University, has written a well-researched, balanced, and comparative history of military innovation in Asia and the West in which he challenges the traditional notion—set forth most compellingly by Victor Davis Hanson in Carnage and Culture and Niall Ferguson in Civilization—that Western culture largely explains Western global predominance in the post-medieval world.
Although Andrade frames the book around the invention of gunpowder by the Chinese and its subsequent employment in warfare by both Chinese and Western powers, his principal focus is to explain why in certain historical time periods Chinese and Western military innovation surged or remained static, and more specifically why there developed a “Great Military Divergence” between China and Western powers during the mid-18th century into the 19th century. The key factor, he concludes, is not culture but the Toynbeean phenomenon of “challenge and response”. Continue reading “The Gunpowder Age: China, Military Innovation, and the Rise of the West in World History”
Q1. [Toye] You’re currently working on print culture during the French revolutionary era. It’s well known that this was a period that saw an extraordinary explosion in the publication of pamphlets and newspapers. But who was producing them, and why?
[Fairfax-Cholmeley] It is true that the Revolution saw a remarkable rise in the quantity and variety (but not necessarily the quality!) of printed material available to the French population. In the late 1780s, a creaking system of censorship broke up completely in the face of the huge excitement generated by the call for the first Estates-General (the French equivalent of Parliament) since 1614. From 1789 onwards, many Revolutionaries would draw a close association between freedom of the press and the wider political and social liberties the Revolution was supposed to be securing. The printing press therefore always had a certain revolutionary cachet that encouraged its use – especially in Paris.
Who exactly was producing pamphlets, newspapers and other printed material (broadsides, petitions, plays…the list is endless) clearly varies a great deal. The Revolutionary press attracted ambitious members of the political elite, for obvious reasons, but overall production involved a much broader constituency. For example, part of my PhD research focused on the use of print by victims of repression during the Terror of 1793-1794 as a tactic to extricate themselves from any number of sticky situations, and also to restore their revolutionary standing afterwards. Just as the Terror targeted men and women from right across the social spectrum, so the petitions, legal briefs, letters and other material printed in response were not just authored by a narrow elite. My current British Academy postdoctoral fellowship was partly inspired by this research. I am investigating the activities of surviving victims of the Terror in the next phase of the French Revolution (1794-1799), including their use of print to mount public campaigns against those they alleged to have been their former oppressors. You also see those accused of being former Terrorists printing their own defences in return. Continue reading “Centre Interview: Fairfax-Cholmeley on the French Revolution, Print Culture, and the Terror”
From how the Cold War shaped David Bowie to lessons from Japanese Canadian internment, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
For scholars of the the British Empire and the British World, the Centre for Imperial & Global History would like to draw your attention to our good friends at the British Scholar Society.
The British Scholar Society is a global organization of historians and political scientists examining Britain’s interactions with the wider world from the seventeenth century to the present day. Aiming to better understand Britain’s place in global history, the society seeks to foster international intellectual exchange about this theme.
Their interest is not limited to Britain’s political relations with other countries, but includes the economic, social and cultural aspects of its international relationships as well. One important focus is the study of the British Empire and the Commonwealth of Nations. Among the activities of The British Scholar Society are
- the organization of an annual scholarly conference (The ‘Britain and the World Conference’), held alternately in Britain and the USA
- the publication of the biannual Britain and the World Journal with Edinburgh University Press
- the publication of a book series with Palgrave Macmillan
- the running of a website (britishscholar.org), providing regular updates about the society’s activities, recent publications in the field of British, imperial and global history, book reviews, essays on Britain’s international history, and much more
- the organization of a lecture series in Britain and continental Europe
University of Exeter
What value do film culture sources have for historians of imperial history and how do we locate them? Readers of this forum (or at least those based in the UK) are likely to be familiar with the AHRC Colonial Film project but many key sources for the study of imperial film remain obscure to those outside film studies circles.
Media History Digital Library is perhaps the most useful resource for considering the culture of world cinema-going in the colonial era. Building on the resources of the Museum of Modern Art in New York and a host of other collections, this site offers a range of film magazines from across the world as well as key pieces of government legislation.
Cinema St. Andrews provides access to various digitised resources, including a full run of the Colonial Film Unit’s magazine Colonial Cinema. Continue reading “Imperial History and Film Culture”