This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

1930 US advert for canal

An advert for the canal, for the US market, c. 1930, from the Manchester Libraries, Information and Archives, Manchester City Council

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

From empire by collaboration to the rise of the global citizen, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.


Empire by Collaboration: A Collaborative Review

Robert Engelbert
Early Canadian History

I recently had an opportunity to discuss Robert Michael Morrissey’s new book Empire by Collaboration: Indians, Colonists, and Governments in Colonial Illinois Country with my senior level seminar on French-Indigenous relations in colonial North America. The following represents the product of our group musings rather than simply my own thoughts, and for full disclosure it is important to note that I am listed in the acknowledgments for his book. Still, I hope that the following will be useful for those seeking to unpack this fascinating new work on Illinois Country history. The first thing that grabbed us was the wonderful accessibility of the writing. Morrissey has a true talent for word-smithing and this book should appeal to a broad audience. Beneath its prosaic veneer, however, is a remarkably nuanced work that is sophisticated in its engagement with ethnohistory, New France, and Illinois Country history. Indigenous power and agency, imperial power and governance, slavery, environment, and a host of other themes all combine to provide a detailed reinterpretation of the development and emergence of empire in the Illinois Country – a vast region encompassing the Wabash, Illinois, and middle Mississippi rivers.

Instead of treating French colonialism as either success or failure, Morrissey’s primary focus is understanding the changing nature of French colonialism in the Illinois Country. This is very much in line with Jay Gitlin’s The Bourgeois Frontier, which worked to do away with old and tired, but stubbornly persistent notions of Anglo-American exceptionalism à la Francis Parkman and Frederick Jackson Turner. Morrissey contends that peoples came together to create a remarkably stable colonial culture in the Illinois Country. This was not the “rogue colonialism” that Shannon Lee Dawdy employed in her history of New Orleans. Rather, empire in the Illinois Country was the product of collaborative efforts of colonial and imperial French actors, and Indigenous peoples. [continue reading]

From Lancashire to the World: The Manchester Ship Canal and Globalization

Harry Stopes
Global Urban History

The opening of the Manchester Ship Canal in 1894 was the culmination of a twelve year project which had mobilized mass popular support (a rally of thousands celebrated the passage of a necessary Act of Parliament 3rd October 1885), as well as a significant sum of money (15 million pounds) raised from a mixture of small local investors, large private capital and a loan from the Manchester Corporation. Unlike other nineteenth century British waterways, the Ship Canal was big enough to take modern ocean liners: importers and exporters could now bypass Liverpool docks and sail directly to Manchester, 40 miles inland. Manchester became the fourth biggest port in Britain by value of imports in less than a decade.

The canal was rationalized as an intervention into the regional economy of the northwest of England, ameliorating the effects of dock and railway rates that canal supporters claimed were prohibitively expensive. New industries were attracted to the area around the docks, particularly to Trafford Park, the world’s first industrial estate, where the Westinghouse Corporation and Ford Motors opened their first European sites in the early twentieth century. But the canal’s function was also symbolic, politically and culturally. To build it was a statement of intent on the part of the city, an assertion of its forward-thinking nature. The campaign to build the canal built upon a populist political rhetoric that brought together workers and industrial capitalists in an alliance of ‘producers’ against supposedly parasitic ‘merchants’ in Liverpool and London. [continue reading]

A Year of Memory Politics in East Asia: Looking Back on the “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan”

Jordan Sand
Asia-Pacific Journal

In spring 2015, I participated in the drafting and distribution of the statement on the “comfort women” and Japanese war responsibility issued under the title “Open Letter in Support of Historians in Japan.” That letter took inspiration from a statement issued in Japan by the Historical Science Society (Rekishigaku Kenkyūkai) in October 2014 and built on a letter published in March 2015 in the American Historical Association’s magazine Perspectives condemning the Japanese government’s effort to suppress passages about the comfort women in a US-published world history textbook.

At the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies in Chicago (held in March 2015), a group of us discussed writing a letter of support for our Japanese colleagues’ efforts to counter the escalating campaign of denial by right-wing politicians and media. After a month of drafting and discussion by email, this resulted in the “Open Letter,” signed by 187 scholars of Japan and sent first to the Historical Science Society, the Historical Society of Japan (Shigakkai), the listserv H-Asia (May 5, 2015), and the Japanese Cabinet Communications Office, then shortly afterward posted in the Asia-Pacific Journal and released to major news media in the United States and Japan as well as wire services. Most of the signers in the first group of 187 were teaching at universities in North America, but during the week after the Letter’s initial release, roughly 360 more supporters signed, many of them from Europe. We chose not to seek signatures in East Asia in order to represent a voice from outside the countries of the perpetrators and the victims in the comfort women case. [continue reading]

Daniel J. Berrigan, Defiant Priest Who Preached Pacifism, Dies at 94

Daniel Lewis
New York Times

The Rev. Daniel J. Berrigan, a Jesuit priest and poet whose defiant protests helped shape the tactics of opposition to the Vietnam War and landed him in prison, died on Saturday in the Bronx. He was 94. His death, at Murray-Weigel Hall, the Jesuit infirmary at Fordham University, was confirmed by the Rev. James Martin, editor at large at America magazine, a national Catholic magazine published by the Jesuits.

The United States was tearing itself apart over civil rights and the war in Southeast Asia when Father Berrigan emerged in the 1960s as an intellectual star of the Roman Catholic “new left,” articulating a view that racism and poverty, militarism and capitalist greed were interconnected pieces of the same big problem: an unjust society. It was an essentially religious position, based on a stringent reading of the Scriptures that some called pure and others radical. But it would have explosive political consequences as Father Berrigan; his brother Philip, a Josephite priest; and their allies took their case to the streets with rising disregard for the law or their personal fortunes. [continue reading]

Identity 2016: ‘Global citizenship’ rising, poll suggests

Naomi Grimley
BBC World

People are increasingly identifying themselves as global rather than national citizens, according to a BBC World Service poll. The trend is particularly marked in emerging economies, where people see themselves as outward looking and internationally minded. However, in Germany fewer people say they feel like global citizens now, compared with 2001.

Pollsters GlobeScan questioned more than 20,000 people in 18 countries. More than half of those asked (56%) in emerging economies saw themselves first and foremost as global citizens rather than national citizens. In Nigeria (73%), China (71%), Peru (70%) and India (67%) the data is particularly marked. By contrast, the trend in the industrialised nations seems to be heading in the opposite direction. In these richer nations, the concept of global citizenship appears to have taken a serious hit after the financial crash of 2008. In Germany, for example, only 30% of respondents see themselves as global citizens. [continue reading]

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