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”
From 3-D printers undoing the destruction of ISIS to the endangered archives of Freetown, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
This month, 250 years ago, the British Parliament in London met to consider the vehement colonial response to the hated Stamp Act. The tax had been introduced in 1764 to raise revenue from the colonies in North America. But as most Americans know, colonial protests forced Parliament to back down, and in doing so, set off the fuse that would eventually ignite the American Revolution. Yet few Americans know why this legislation was passed in the first place.
In part, it was to recover some of the tremendous costs of Britain’s imperial wars. In 1763, Britain emerged victorious from the Seven Years’ War, a conflict that began on the frontiers of its North American colonies but which quickly became global in scope. Britain bested its rival France in India, the Caribbean, and North America, but only after pouring hundreds of thousands of pounds into its navy and army.
Though the war had been tremendously costly, it quickly led to another imperial war that gets less attention – this time with Native Americans – in a conflict we often now call “Pontiac’s War.” At the end of the Seven Years’ War, Native Americans insisted the British had only conquered the French, and not them. But British military officers, with their confidence brimming from their previous successes, acted imperiously and ignored native claims to sovereignty and their land. Continue reading “The Costs of Empire: Native Americans and the Origins of the Stamp Act”
The Heartland Myth Revisited
American Isolationism as Seen through the Most Local of Places
The Centre for Imperial & Global History is delighted to announce
a talk by
Professor Kristin Hoganson
Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History
When: Wed. Jan. 13, 4-5:30 pm
Where: Amory 239AB, University of Exeter
Abstract: This talk reconsiders the myth of American isolationism by tackling some of the place-based assumptions upon which it rests. In opposition to those who have pinned the isolationist label to the rural Midwest, Hoganson explores hidden histories of connection that stitched this seemingly most local of places to the wider world in the seemingly most local of times — the long nineteenth century. Though attention to such topics as indigenous diasporas, bioprospecting, animal breeding, consular representation, meterological congresses, scientific agriculture, Malthusian discourse, and international students, this paper brings multiple forms of alliance politics to light. In so doing, it makes a case for a different kind of local history and a different sense of region, attuned not only to affiliative impulses but also to the exclusionary politics of empire.
Kristin Hoganson is Professor of History and Professor of Gender and Women’s Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and the 2015-16 Harmsworth Visiting Professor of American History at Oxford University. Her research interests lie in placing the United States in world context, cultures of U.S. imperialism, and women’s and gender history. She is the author of Fighting for American Manhood: How Gender Politics Provoked the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars (Yale UP, 1998) and Consumers’ Imperium: The Global Production of American Domesticity, 1865-1920 (UNC Press, 2007). Her current research focuses on the local history of the U.S. heartland: Once Upon a Place: The U.S. Heartland Between Security and Empire (Penguin Press, forthcoming).
From rush hour in Ottoman Istanbul to the opening of new Vichy French archives, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire by Roger Crowley (Faber & Faber, September 2015; RandomHouse, December 2015)
Cross-posted from Asian Review of Books
“Had there been more of the world,” wrote Luís de Camões of the Portuguese explorers, they “would have discovered it.” That’s a line from Roger Crowley’s fantastic new narrative history, The Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire.
Crowley is out to reset the primacy of Columbus and the Spanish discovery of the Americas that resides in contemporary Western society. The age of exploration was a European endeavor but particularly an Iberian one. The Portuguese explorers were the ones who did the bulk of the discovering. Moreover, as Crowley relates, Portuguese swashbuckling penetrated the heart of Asian commerce and achieved a stunning dominance there. The Portuguese, within a matter of years, had created the first Western-dominated world empire since Alexander the Great. Their achievement was Act One in the saga of the rise of the West – and what a bloody, thrilling and unlikely victory it was. Continue reading “Conquerors: How Portugal Seized the Indian Ocean and Forged the First Global Empire”
Call for Papers: Britain and the World Conference 2016
Cross-posted from British Scholar Society
23-5 June, Senate House, University of London
Deadline for Submissions: Monday, 4 January 2016
Notifications as to Inclusion: Friday, 22 January 2016
This is the call for papers for the ninth annual Britain and the World Conference, which will be in London in June 2016. Paper and panel proposals should focus on Britain’s interactions with the world from the beginning of the seventeenth century to the present. Established scholars, scholars at the beginning of their careers, and graduate students are all equally welcome to apply and present at the conference.
The keynote speaker is Professor Catherine Hall (University College London), and the three plenary speakers are Professor Stephen Conway (University College London), Professor Margaret Hunt (Uppsala University), and Professor Philip Murphy (Institute of Commonwealth Studies).
The Britain and the World Conference is always a very sociable conference, and the 2016 conference will be no different, with the Conference Icebreaker on the Thursday evening, the Dinner Party on the Friday evening, and a post-conference night out in Soho beginning on the Saturday evening.