This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Poster of First-World-War French colonial troops. Courtesy of Asia-Pacific Journal.
Poster of First-World-War French colonial troops. Courtesy of Asia-Pacific Journal.

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

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.

How 3D Printers Can Help Undo the Destruction of ISIS

Dominic Bosulto
Washington Post

ISIS may keep blowing up historical landmarks in the Middle East, but now technology is fighting back. Starting in April, 3D-printed replicas of the 2,000-year-old Arch of Palmyra, which was fortunate to have survived complete obliteration during an ISIS rampage through Syria last summer, will begin showing up in London and New York.

Rendition of a proposed 3D-printed arch in the center of London. (Courtesy: Institute for Digital Archaeology)
Rendition of a proposed 3D-printed arch in the center of London. (Courtesy: Institute for Digital Archaeology)

The Institute for Digital Archaeology, a joint venture between Harvard University, the University of Oxford and the Museum of the Future in Dubai, will 3D-print replicas of the Arch of Palmyra during UNESCO’s World Heritage Week in April. Current plans call for a replica of the arch to appear in London’s Trafalgar Square as well as a location to be named in New York (with the preferred destination being Times Square). Smaller-size replicas may also appear at museums within these cities as well. [continue reading]

Imperial Cities as Cultural Nodes: A View from Early Twentieth-Century Tokyo

Jordan Sand
Global Urban History

. . . . In the field of literature, Tokyo’s role in the traffic of knowledge can be measured roughly in translations and publications. Karen Thornber has demonstrated the breadth of literary contact and exchange through the Japanese empire [5]. Here too, Tokyo often played the role of entrepôt. The Chinese writer Lu Xun, for example, combed the Tokyo bookshops for Western books in their original languages and in Japanese translation. At the same time, new networks of writers were constructed within Asia. In 1942, 1,500 writers gathered at the Imperial Hotel in Tokyo for the Greater East Asia Writers Conference.

Students who came to Tokyo from elsewhere in Asia formed their own literary and political organizations, which for many participants were the first formal social groups identifying them with their countrymen. Michael Weiner records fourteen Korean organizations founded in Tokyo before 1925, most of them nationalist, with a few communist [6]. Korean and Taiwanese students at Waseda University in Tokyo published their political writing together in Japanese in the journal Asian Review (Ajia kōron). Meanwhile, China specialist Sanetō Keishū, writing in 1939, listed no fewer than 37 Chinese-language journals published in Japan. [continue reading]

Sir Christopher Bayly Named 2016 Toynbee Prize Winner

Timothy Nunan
Toynbee Prize Foundation

The Toynbee Prize Foundation has selected Sir Christopher Alan Bayly as the honorary recipient of the 2016 Toynbee Prize. The Prize, given every other year to a distinguished practitioner of global history, was awarded posthumously at a session of the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting in Atlanta on January 9, 2016. There, Toynbee Prize Foundation Vice-President Darrin McMahon and Trustee David Armitage announced the Prize at a session devoted to the intellectual legacy of Bayly, who passed away in April 2015.

Bayly, who taught at the University of Cambridge as a Fellow of St Catharine’s College, the Director of the Centre of South Asian Studies, and the Vere Harmsworth Professor of Imperial and Naval History, was a scholar of British Imperial, South Asian, and global history. While perhaps known to readers of global history for his 2004 The Birth of the Modern World: Global Connections and Comparisons, Bayly also made major contributions to the fields of both South Asian as well as British Imperial history through books like The Local Roots of Indian Politics (1975), Rulers, Townsmen, and Bazaars (1983), and Imperial Meridian (1989), to name only a few of his works. At the time of his death, Bayly was serving as the Swami Vivekananda Professor in South Asian Studies at the University of Chicago, where he was completing a book entitled Remaking the Modern World, 1914-2015. Bayly read for the Bachelor of Arts degree at Balliol College, Oxford and received his Doctor of Philosophy Degree from St Antony’s College, Oxford in 1970. [continue reading]

Coercion and Co-Optation of Indochinese Worker-Soldiers in World War I: Mort pour la France

Geoffrey Gunn
Asia-Pacific Journal

Faced with early setbacks in World War I battles on the Western Front, alongside a massive attrition of manpower, France began to look to its empire and even China as sources of labor alongside soldiers. Eventually Indochina would supply some 30 percent of France’s colonial forces alongside even larger contingents of Senegalese, Madagascans, and Moroccans and Chinese, in all totaling about half a million.

Vietnamese munitions workers. Courtesy of Asia-Pacific Journal.
Vietnamese munitions workers. Courtesy of Asia-Pacific Journal.

While the lion’s share of the “Indochinese” were Vietnamese, Cambodians also made up one battalion. While the transformative and emotional experiences of the soldier (linh tho)-workers in France has been the subject of at least one dedicated study in English (Hill, 2006; 2011a; 2011b), I am equally concerned with the objective experience of the Indochinese en route to the battlefields, their wartime actions, and intellectual responses. A horrible war by any standards, it was not surprising that many thousands of Vietnamese and Cambodians made the supreme sacrifice, or died for France (“mort pour la France)” as written on the epitaphs of those buried in France. I am also concerned to link Indochinese participation in the war with the “anti-war”and/or anti-colonial movement in Paris and in Indochina. [continue reading]

Freetown and the Transatlantic Slave Trade

Paul Lovejoy and Suzanne Schwarz
Endangered Archives Blog

Over the past five years, several British Library Endangered Archives projects have focused on preserving documents in the Sierra Leone Public Archives at Freetown which are of enormous importance for an understanding of the transatlantic slave trade and the African diaspora. A long-running programme of digitisation has contributed to the preservation of rare and invaluable sources which are perishing in woefully deficient storage conditions characterised by extremely high humidity.

The oldest document held in Freetown is a treaty dated 1788, in which British officials claimed that the land on which the original settlement was built had been granted to ‘the said ffree community to be theirs, their Heirs and successors for ever…’. The treaty, now encased in Perspex, recorded how the land had been secured for a bundle of goods including a ‘Crimson Sattin Embroidered waistcoat, a Lead Coloured Sattin Coat, a Waistcoat and Breeches, a mock Diamond Ring, two pair of Pistols, one Tellascope, Two pair of Gold Ear Rings with Necklasses…’. [continue reading]