This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Commodore Perry’s landing at Shimoda (Shizuoka), 1854

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

From censoring images of war to uncovering authoritarian internationalism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

The Story Behind the ‘Napalm Girl’ Photo Censored by Facebook

Time Lightbox

This week, Facebook briefly removed and quickly reinstated one of the most powerful images to emerge from war—a 1972 photograph of a nine-year-old Vietnamese girl—after initially saying the image violates the company’s policies on displaying nudity. A censorship battle ensued.

Espen Egil Hansen, the editor-in-chief of Norway’s Aftenposten, slammed Mark Zuckerberg for a perceived abuse of power, calling the CEO of Facebook “the world’s most powerful editor.” On Friday, the company reinstated the picture and said “the value of permitting sharing outweighs the value of protecting the community by removal.” An initial Facebook statement recognized its iconic status but said “it’s difficult to create a distinction between allowing a photograph of a nude child in one instance and not others.” [continue reading]

Perry’s Black Ships in Japan and Ryukyu: The Whitewash of History

Steve Rabson
Asia-Pacific Journal

On July 11, 2016, the organization Veterans for Peace issued a statement (see document below) observing the 162nd anniversary of the Lew Chew Compact, popularly known as a “friendship” or “amity” treaty. In reality, officials of the Ryukyu Kingdom were forced to sign it by Commodore Matthew C. Perry who commanded a squadron of battleships invading the Ryukyus in 1853 and 1854. The Compact permitted unlimited visitation and residence to Americans in Ryukyu and mandated that American criminal suspects be turned over to U.S. authorities aboard American ships. Also in 1854, Perry forced Japanese officials under threat of bombardment to sign the “Convention of Kanagawa” compelling Japan’s ports to accept foreign trade and imposing a system of extraterritoriality which placed foreign residents under the jurisdiction of their respective nations’ consular courts, exempting them from Japanese law.

This was gunboat diplomacy much like what the United States imposed on the nations of Latin America throughout the 19th and 20th centuries. Both of these “treaties” ominously foreshadowed postwar U.S. military policies toward Japan where the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) exempts Americans and their bases from key provisions of Japanese law; and, especially in Okinawa, where a disproportionate U.S. military presence remains despite overwhelming opposition expressed in elections, local government policies, and public protests. [continue reading]

Michael Gove’s claims about history teaching are false, says research

Sally Weale

Claims that the history of the British empire is not being widely taught in schools – and when it is that the content is negative and anti-British – are false, according to research. Some historians and politicians have criticised schools for failing to teach about the empire and in particular the achievements of empire. Among them is the former education secretary, Michael Gove, who once complained that too muchhistory teaching was informed by post-colonial guilt.

But a paper by Prof Terry Haydn of the University of East Anglia found that the study of the British empire was an “integral” part of the national curriculum in England, which stipulates that pupils should be taught about “ideas, political power, industry and empire: Britain, 1745-1901”. Haydn’s findings are based on an analysis of curriculum specifications, text books and history education websites, as well as a small-scale survey of 15 heads of history departments. The report also concludes that neither the textbooks teaching about empire, nor the history websites used by schools, suggest an “anti-British” slant is being taught in schools. [continue reading]

The Era of American Global Dominance Is Over

Graham E. Fuller
Huffington Post

You might recall the term “Eurasia” from high school geography classes. The term isn’t used much anymore in political discussions in the West, but it should be. That is where the most serious geopolitical action is going to be taking place in the world as we move deeper into the 21st century. The U.S., focused so intently on “containment“ of Russia, the so-called Islamic State and China, will be missing the bigger Eurasian strategic picture. Eurasia is the greatest landmass of the world, embracing Europe and all of Asia — some of the oldest and greatest centers of human civilization.

So what is Eurasianism? It has meant different things at different periods. A century ago, the Kissingers of the time spun theories about a deep and inevitable strategic clash between seaborne power (U.K./U.S.) and continental/land-based powers (Germany, Russia.) “Eurasia” then meant mostly Europe and western Russia. Indeed, what need was there to talk then about Asia itself? Most of Asia was underdeveloped and lay under the control of the British Empire (India, China) or the French (Indochina) and had no independent will. Japan was the only real “Asian power” — that ironically developed its own imperial designs, mimicking the West, and thus came to clash with American imperial power in the Pacific. [continue reading]

The Language of Authoritarian Internationalism

David Brydan
The Language of ‘Authoritarian’ Regimes

The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed a rapid increase in international cooperation between scientists, experts, intellectuals, activists and other groups. These developments were prompted both by improvements to travel and communication technologies, and by the belief that international cooperation was required to deal with the political and technical challenges posed by an increasingly interconnected world.

The language of ‘internationalism’ quickly became associated with liberal idealists, or with the emerging socialist and communist movements, envisaging either a world united by free trade and political liberty, or by working class solidarity. International cooperation, however, was not confined to liberals and socialists. Many experts involved in international technical cooperation belonged to the authoritarian right. Radical nationalists and fascist movements aped their political opponents by promoting international cooperation between authoritarian movements and states. [continue reading]


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