This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Galata Bridge
A bustling Galata Bridge in late-nineteenth-century Istanbul. Image courtesy of the Global Urban History Blog.

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

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.

Rush Hour in Ottoman Istanbul: Mechanized Transportation and the Emergence of Modern Temporal Patterns

Avner Wishnitzer
Global Urban History Blog

It is the morning rush hour in the Istanbul neighborhood of Eminönü. Another ferry is approaching the quay and even before it is tied to the platform, hordes of people alight and rush on to the street. Some stop for a few seconds to buy a simit and then eat it as they run to catch the tram. It is only with difficulty that they manage to make their way through the crowd of peddlers and tourists. Taking quick bites from their simits without lowering their eyes, they try to avoid head-on collision with their likes who happen to be running in the opposite direction, praying that the ferry has not departed yet.

Such images are so natural to us today that we rarely ask when and how they became an integral part of life in Istanbul. While much has been written about the remaking of Ottoman urban space during the nineteenth century, very little has been said about parallel changes in urban time. Yet, it is impossible to comprehend modern urban experience without a sense of its unique rhythms. Exploring the development of these rhythms in nineteenth century Istanbul shows that it was the subjugation of people to a widening web of interlocking time systems, within the unique physical layout of Istanbul that gradually gave the city its peculiar pulse, a pulse that is still recognizable today. [continue reading]

The Newberry to Digitize 30,000 Pamphlets Documenting the French Revolution

The Newberry

This month, the Newberry will embark on a year-and-a-half-long project to digitize 30,000 French political pamphlets published between 1780 and 1810—a tumultuous era marked by the French Revolution and its bloody aftermath. These pamphlets, written by various fulminating commentators and political theorists, represent a range of opinion regarding popular sovereignty and royal execution. Titled Voices of the Revolution, the project is supported by a grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR) as part of its new Digitizing Hidden Special Collections and Archives program. The Hidden Collections program is funded by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

“We are grateful to CLIR for their support of our efforts to provide users with the digital tools necessary for both discovering and using Newberry collections,” says Alice Schreyer, the Newberry’s Vice President for Collections and Library Services. “By digitizing over 500,000 pages of text concerning the French Revolution and the execution of Louis XVI, Voices of the Revolution extends the Newberry’s commitment to enhancing access to a much-studied subject area within our collection. The breadth and depth of the material can support scholarly inquiries from an array of disciplinary perspectives, from legal history and cultural studies to the history of printing and publication.” [continue reading]

Why ‘Comfort Women’ Deal Doesn’t Shut Book on Japan’s Wartime Sex Slavery

S. J. Friedman

After 70 years, the Japanese and South Korean governments finally released a joint statement outlining a bilateral agreement to settle the issue of comfort women, a euphemism for girls and women forced to have sex with Japanese soldiers from the 1930s until the end of World War WII.

The agreement states the Japanese government will offer a one-time final apology and to pay 1 billion yen ($8.3m) to provide care for victims through a foundation. While there are those who argue that this is a breakthrough for the comfort women movement, the longest running activist movement on sex slavery in modern history, this agreement only deals with one country — the reconciliation between Japan and South Korea. [continue reading]

New Hillary Emails Reveal Propaganda, Executions, Coveting Libyan Oil and Gold

Brad Hoff
Levant Report

….Though the French-proposed U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 claimed the no-fly zone implemented over Libya was to protect civilians, an April 2011 email sent to Hillary with the subject line “France’s client and Qaddafi’s gold” tells of less noble ambitions. The email identifies French President Nicholas Sarkozy as leading the attack on Libya with five specific purposes in mind: to obtain Libyan oil, ensure French influence in the region, increase Sarkozy’s reputation domestically, assert French military power, and to prevent Gaddafi’s influence in what is considered “Francophone Africa.”

Most astounding is the lengthy section delineating the huge threat that Gaddafi’s gold and silver reserves, estimated at “143 tons of gold, and a similar amount in silver,” posed to the French franc (CFA) circulating as a prime African currency. [continue reading]

France Opens Archives of WW2 pro-Nazi Vichy Regime

BBC News

France is opening up police and ministerial archives from the Vichy regime which collaborated with Nazi occupation forces in World War Two. More than 200,000 declassified documents are being made public on Monday. They date from the 1940-1944 regime of Marshal Philippe Petain.

Pro-Nazi French officials deported 76,000 Jews between 1940-1944.
Pro-Nazi French officials deported 76,000 Jews between 1940-1944.

During the war the Vichy regime helped Nazi Germany to deport 76,000 Jews from France, including many children. France is also opening files from its post-liberation provisional government. The Vichy documents come from the wartime ministries of the interior, foreign affairs and justice, as well as the police. Some of the archives relate to war crimes investigations conducted by the French liberation authorities after the defeat of Nazi Germany. [continue reading]