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