This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

 A 1915 German poster, entitled L’Entente Cordiale, depicting a British spider weaving a web over Europe. Photograph: John Ellis/The British Library
A 1915 German poster, entitled L’Entente Cordiale, depicting a British spider weaving a web over Europe. Photograph: John Ellis/The British Library

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

From Soviet maps of Brighton to a more accurate map of the world, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

British Library explores 20th century maps in new exhibition

Mark Brown

Few, if any, cold war historians believe Soviet Russia was ever actively planning to invade Brighton, Hove and Shoreham, but a remarkable map suggests the country’s leaders had been prepared should the opportunity have arisen. The British Library is putting the detailed Soviet military map of Brighton and its surrounding area in Sussex on display as part of an exhibition that opens to the public on Friday.

The library has more than 4m maps in its collection but the exhibition will feature 200 and will aim to tell, for the first time, the history of the 20th century through maps. There is much that will stop visitors in their tracks, from the funny to the chilling, and the Brighton map could be a bit of both. [continue reading]

Some Reflections on Imperial Port Cities in the Age of Steam

Lasse Heerton and Daniel Todt
Global Urban History

Let’s judge some books by their covers. In the recently flourishing literature on global and imperial history, port cities have become ubiquitous icons, visual shorthand for globalization, world economy, and migration, as we can see on the covers of many of the field’s classics. But once you actually open these books, the port cities, the steamships, and dockyards tend to disappear. This is surprising because during the late nineteenth century port cities grew physically and became more politically and economically significant, both in Western Europe and worldwide. The urban docklands did not simply keep pace with the “transformation of the world” (Osterhammel 2014), they set the pace.

With the steadily increasing interest in global history, the relationship between port cities and projects of imperial rule and expansion has recently attracted the interest of a growing number of historians. But book titles like Ten Cities Made an Empire (Hunt 2014) still keep quiet about the fact that nine of these cities had a port. [continue reading]

Empire shaped the world. There is an abyss at the heart of dishonest history textbooks

Moni Mohsin

When I was a child in Lahore in Pakistan, my parents employed a driver called Sultan. Sultan, a retired soldier, was from a village near Jhelum. He was a cheerful man in his 60s who readily joined in our games of badminton. But to me the most interesting fact about Sultan was that he could speak Italian. A fragmentary, broken Italian, but Italian nonetheless, picked up as a prisoner of war in Italy. He called me signorina and taught me three Italian words: si, grazie and buongiorno. Decades later, when I told my children about Sultan, they were gobsmacked. What was a Pakistani villager doing fighting in Italy? He wasn’t Pakistani then, I explained, he was Indian. Sultan was one of more than two million Indian soldiers who fought for the allies in the second world war. “No! Really?” they breathed.

My children (daughter 17, son 15) were born and raised in London and have had the good fortune to attend fantastic schools where they have been offered, alongside the usual array of subjects, a rich diet of music, drama, art, sport and languages. Their extracurricular clubs include Arabic, feminism, astronomy, mindfulness and carpentry. In my convent school in Lahore, I had to listen in respectful silence. In London, they are encouraged to question and argue. [continue reading]

“Daddy” Schuyler, Hamilton, and the Dakota Access Pipeline

Rachel Herrmann

Three things happened in the last couple weeks to put Hamilton back on my mind: 1) the Victoria Palace Theatre in London announced that tickets for the show would finally (finally!) go on sale in January, 2) I started re-reading some of my research notes for this round of book edits, and 3) police arrested and pepper-sprayed peaceful Native Americans—Standing Rock Sioux, along with 90 additional nations and tribes—who were protesting the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline.

I find that being a historian is a job of intellectual mood swings. I read my sources telling me about the horrible things some of the people I study did in the past, and then I have to pull back and contextualize their actions within an eighteenth-century milieu in which many people were terrible people most of the time by 2016’s standards (and people, our standards these days are low). All this is a longish way of saying that I, like many historians, love Hamilton while recognizing that its treatment of Early Republic history misrepresents and sometimes leaves out some of the topics that matter most to me as a historian. And so today I want to talk about Hamilton, settler colonialism, and Native American history—in particular, about land battles and the relationship between Indians, federal governments, and state entities. [continue reading]

A More Accurate World Map Wins Prestigious Japanese Design Award

Shaunacy Fero
Mental Floss

To design a map of the world is no easy task. Because maps represent the spherical Earth in 2D form, they cannot help but be distorted, which is why Greenland and Antarctica usually look far more gigantic than they really are, while Africa appears vastly smaller than its true size. The AuthaGraph World Map tries to correct these issues, showing the world closer to how it actually is in all its spherical glory.


Created by Hajime Narukawa at Keio University’s Graduate School of Media and Governance in Tokyo, the design just won the grand prize from Japan’s Good Design Award as Spoon & Tamago reports. It beat out over 1000 entries in a variety of categories. [continue reading]

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