From 1970s colonialism in Lisbon to saving digital archives, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Global Urban History
Lisbon is a peculiar metropolis. The city is the capital of a nation that one of its leading intellectuals, the sociologist Boaventura de Sousa Santos, has qualified as semi-peripheral. On the one hand, Lisbon represents a small country that has been economically weak, culturally marginal, and politically dependent on more powerful allies throughout much of its modern history. On the other hand, the city has experienced periods of flourishing commercial activity, impressive wealth, and far-reaching cultural radiance, and it has for centuries been closely connected to the rest of the European continent and the wider world through a continuous flow of people and goods.
Three dimensions of this connectedness can be easily identified: first, Portugal’s maritime expansion and colonial empire that have shaped the cityscape, architecture, demography, and cultural life of Lisbon; second, movements of emigration, return migration, and immigration that have been a dominant feature of Portuguese history since the fifteenth century; and, finally, throughout the last five decades, the steadily growing influx of tourists who appreciate the painfully beautiful capital for its light, its history and architecture, its thriving cultural life, and, last but not least, for its price level, which is below the price level of many other European cities. During the summer of 1975, these three dimensions—colonialism, migration, and tourism—became entwined in peculiar and unforeseeable ways. [continue reading]
Paul Hébert: Can you tell us more about what led you to research the ideological origins of the academic discipline of foreign relations? How does this new project build on your previous scholarship?
Robert Vitalis: The story I tell in the book’s preface is true. I stumbled onto this project after reading a self-published history of Clark University. It noted the contribution its faculty made to the early history of the discipline of international relations through founding the first journal, the Journal of Race Development (JRD), in 1910, a fact that complicates the conventional origin story and one that no international relations scholar had an inkling of until I began to publish my findings. The one the discipline tells itself is that like minded internationalists in London and New York sought to keep Wilsonianism alive through founding the Royal Institute of International Affairs (better known to insiders as Chatham House) and the Council on Foreign Relations, together with the first specialist publications, International Affairs and Foreign Affairs.
What I read in the journal and other contemporaneous sources called into question three commonly held beliefs about the discipline. The first is that its thinkers never showed much interest in the study of imperialism. The reality is that the new U.S. colonial conquests of the late nineteenth century were the fundamental grounds on which the scholars argued the need for a new field of study, in particular due to the prospect of increased conflict across the color line. The second, starkly wrong idea, therefore, is that “race” hasn’t mattered to theory building. Yet here were leading white scholars championing the theory of “race development,” hence the journal’s title, or what today we are more likely to think of as uplift, tutelage, nation-building, and so on, as the chief means by which “race war” might be minimized and white supremacy secured in the future. The third all too familiar belief, not limited to academic international relations, is that black thinkers have not mattered. [continue reading]
New York Times
Delmer Berg, the last known living veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, which vainly fought against Fascism’s advance into Spain in the late 1930s, died on Sunday at his home in Columbia, Calif. He was 100. His death was confirmed by Marina Garde, the executive director of theAbraham Lincoln Brigade Archives in New York, who said Mr. Berg was believed to have been the only survivor left of the nearly 3,000 quixotic young Americans who volunteered for the Spanish Civil War in a bloody prelude to World War II. About 800 of those who volunteered were believed to have been killed.
Mr. Berg, an unreconstructed Communist, was a 21-year-old union-card-carrying hotel dishwasher in 1937 when he spotted a billboard for the brigade and, through the Young Communist League, enlisted. After cobbling together bus fare to New York, he boarded the French luxury liner Champlain for France. [continue reading]
Last week, news came that Trove, the National Library of Australia’s fabulous digital repository, was under threat from funding cuts. A flood of users from all walks of life began tweeting their support under the #fundTrove hashtag. (See an article in the Conversation outlining the funding cuts here.) They also shared the reasons why Trove is so valuable to them in their professional and/or everyday lives. It has made for quite
compelling reading – historians, teachers, novelists, family history buffs, students, all have their unique Trove stories.
For archival researchers, such as myself, Trove is a godsend. Millions of documents are available, it is easily searchable and its scope stretches far beyond the shores of Australia.
I have used Trove, for instance, to find all of the newspaper articles pertaining to the “Sutton Case”, the first organised Franco-Australian blackbirding expedition. You can read about this here. It has also been useful in my research into Reunionese migrants in 19th century New Caledonia as often events that occurred in the Pacific Islands were reported in the Australian press. When a ship came in from the Pacific, any significant events would find their way into the local newspapers. [continue reading]