This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Copy of the Asian-African Conference Bulletin held at the Foreign Affairs Archives in Belgium. The Indonesian government produced a Bulletin on the Bandung Conference, intended to bolster its prestige, 1955.
Copy of the Asian-African Conference Bulletin held at the Foreign Affairs Archives in Belgium. The Indonesian government produced a Bulletin on the Bandung Conference, intended to bolster its prestige, 1955.

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

From Christian imperialism to 1945’s forgotten heroes of Paris, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Review: Emily Conroy-Krutz, Christian Imperialism: Converting the World in the Early American Republic

Christopher Jones

In February 1812, eight American missionaries—five ordained clergymen and three of their wives—set sail for India as representatives of the recently established American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions (ABCFM). Though the specifics of their mission were ill defined, and none of the eight lasted long in India, their mission marked the propitious beginnings of the foreign mission movement in America. Over the course of the next four decades, more than one thousand men and women were commissioned by the ABCFM to missionize non-Christian peoples far beyond the borders of the early American republic.

In Christian Imperialism, Emily Conroy-Krutz analyzes the experiences of the ABCFM missionaries from roughly 1812 to 1848. She argues, as the title of her book implies, that the missionaries were agents of “Christian Imperialism,” a vision and effort to convert (and civilize) “heathen” peoples around the globe that variously worked in concert with and in contest against other forms of early American imperialism. [continue reading]

Margaret Thatcher held secret Saudi arms talks, archives show

James Robins
BBC News

Margaret Thatcher held secret talks with Saudi rulers in 1985, leading up to the UK’s largest arms deal, newly released official documents show. The then prime minister met King Fahd five months before the first instalment of the £40bn Al-Yamamah deal was agreed to sell Tornados and other aircraft.

At the time, officials said the meeting focused on peace in the Middle East. But Foreign Office papers indicate the visit was actually intended to “smoke out” the Saudis over arms contracts. Newly declassified documents from the mid-1980s give a fresh insight into the Thatcher government’s immense efforts to sell British Tornados and other aircraft to Saudi Arabia. [continue reading]

Spectres of South-South Diplomacy: Afro-Asian Solidarity or Afro-Asian Competition?

Frank Gerits

Research on the Global Cold War and the wider history of what is called the Third World proliferated after 2005, in the wake of Odd Arne Westad’slandmark book. In the decade that followed the multi-centric approach, developed by Ryan Irwin, has emerged as an alternative to the nation-state framework while the influence of non-state actors has been acknowledged by Matthew Connelly who wrote about the Algerian war of liberation as a diplomatic revolution.

An important topic historians still grapple with, however, is South-South diplomacy. Jeffrey Byrne’s Mecca of Revolution, for instance, traces how Third World Internationalism, initially a subversive phenomenon outside of the boundaries of the state, was embraced by newly independent countries, such as Algeria, who sought to strengthen their legitimacy. Someone like Houari Boumédiènne who overthrew Ahmed Ben Bellah in 1965, sought control over all interactions between the domestic space and international organizations, in an attempt to prevent the kinds of transnational connections that had undermined colonialism. In this way Byrnes gives a convincing explanation of why the nation-state model prevailed. [continue reading]

Does Henry Kissinger Have a Conscience?

Jon Lee Anderson
New Yorker

Last March, when President Obama travelled to Argentina to meet with the country’s new President, Mauricio Macri, his public appearances were dogged by protesters who noisily demanded explanations, and apologies, for U.S. policies, past and present. There are few countries in the West where anti-Americanism is as vociferously expressed as in Argentina, where a highly politicized culture of grievance has evolved in which many of the country’s problems are blamed on the United States. On the left, especially, there is lingering resentment over the support extended by the U.S. government to Argentina’s right-wing military, which seized power in March of 1976 and launched a “Dirty War” against leftists that took thousands of lives over the following seven years.

Obama’s visit coincided with the fortieth anniversary of the coup. He pointedly paid homage to the Dirty War’s victims by visiting a shrine built in their honor on the outskirts of Buenos Aires. In an address he gave at the shrine, Obama acknowledged what he characterized as American sins of omission, but he stopped short of issuing an outright apology. “Democracies have to have the courage to acknowledge when we don’t live up to the ideals that we stand for,” he said. “And we’ve been slow to speak out for human rights, and that was the case here.” [continue reading]

Women, communists and foreigners: the forgotten heroes of Paris, 1945

Robert Gildea

Seventy years ago, in a dramatic combat that began on 18 August and finished on 25 August 1944, Paris was liberated from Nazi rule. Charles de Gaulle, head of the new provisional government, told the French people that – with a little help from the Allies – they had liberated themselves. But how true was this? Might it have been merely a myth designed to restore honour and unity to a country that had been defeated, occupied and divided against itself?

The liberation of Paris wove together two scenarios: a military campaign and a revolutionary movement. The first French column into Paris was the Second Armoured Division commanded by General Leclerc, who had won over France’s colonies in Equatorial Africa and fought his way north against the Axis forces in Libya and Tunisia. Rearmed and retrained in Yorkshire, his division did not land on the Normandy beaches until 1 August 1944, eight weeks after D-Day. Allied Supreme Commander Eisenhower wanted to drive the Germans back north of the capital and it was only General de Gaulle’s obstinacy that secured Leclerc his role in the liberation of Paris. [continue reading]

One thought on “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

  1. Re: Kissinger

    If one subscribes to the ethical pluralism of the late Isaiah Berlin, or the renaissance political philosophy of Machiavelli, or the realpolitik of von Rochau, it becomes reasonable to ask whether a secretary of state _should_ exercise a conscience in the pursuit of his/her brief.

    But that said, I’d add that the interests of the state can be pursued pragmatically within a spectrum of attitudes that extends from gross arrogance to timid humility. Kissinger, in my view, tended toward the the arrogance end of the spectrum, while being otherwise effective in his pragmatism. The world today would be better served, I think, by a conscious commitment to moderation in all things.

    In that regard, I worry that Kissinger’s admirer, Ms. Clinton, suffers the same tendency, if not toward arrogance, then at least toward an unhealthy lack of humility in defining America’s place in the world. She is, however, at least consistent — hence a better gamble than her opponent in this year’s elections.

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