Call for Applications – Beaming the British Empire: the Imperial Wireless Chain, c. 1900-1940: AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award

exeter logo

AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Exeter and BT Archives

Beaming the British empire: the Imperial Wireless Chain, circa 1900-1940

Ref: 2583

About the award

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Exeter and BT Archives to research and study the origins, development and impact of the Imperial Wireless Chain, the global network of shortwave radio stations that reputedly played a critical role in British colonial integrity from the 1920s to the 1940s.

This project focuses on one of the most extraordinary milestones in the history of global telecommunications and represents an exciting opportunity for students with backgrounds in the history of science, technology, and modern British and imperial history.  First conceived by Guglielmo Marconi in 1906 to use long-wave transmitters, the Imperial Wireless Chain (IWC) was postponed following a political scandal and the outbreak of the First World War.    In the early 1920s, and at some financial risk, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company developed its innovative ‘beam’ short-wave system and this was eventually adopted by the British government for the IWC.  The first pair of ‘beam’ stations opened in Britain and Canada in 1927 and within a few years similar stations followed in Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.  It soon became one of the most widely used forms of long distance communication in the British empire and posed such a threat to the ageing submarine cable business that had constituted the ‘nervous system’ of the British empire that the British government was eventually forced to amalgamate the newer and older forms of telegraphy into one of the largest telecommunication firms of the 1930s: Cable and Wireless.  Despite its importance, the history of the Imperial Wireless Chain has not been the subjects of systematic scholarly study.

Continue reading “Call for Applications – Beaming the British Empire: the Imperial Wireless Chain, c. 1900-1940: AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

taboo

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

From Tom Hardy’s East India Company to how the Ottoman Empire saw the United States in 1803, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Myth and Geopolitics from Below: Apartheid South Africa and America in the Angolan Civil War

 

7-1-alternate-version

Jamie Miller
University of Pittsburgh
Follow on Twitter @JamieMiller85

In 1975, the armed forces of apartheid South Africa intervened in the Angolan Civil War, carrying the flag of the anti-communist West into a burgeoning Cold War conflict. South Africa’s armed forces, confronted by Cuban troops, ended up in a military stalemate and a political disaster. Its government was pilloried internationally for interfering in a political contest in black Africa. African liberation movements across Southern Africa were emboldened. A model for achieving decolonisation through armed force, backed by Cuban and Soviet assistance, was established. And within South Africa itself, black political movements saw the regime’s aura of invincibility shattered, as did some puzzled white voters. The intervention in Angola, in other words, was an important turning point for the apartheid regime.

Ever since, historians have broadly accepted that South Africa was acting in Angola as an agent of American interests. “The US government urged South Africa, which might otherwise have hesitated, to act,” writes Piero Gleijeses, the preeminent specialist in Cuban and American foreign relations.[1]

In South Africa, a parallel notion has proliferated. The regime is remembered as having acted on America’s behalf in Angola; failure is ascribed to the lack of US congressional support for the commitments the Ford Administration had made to the apartheid regime. Then Defence Minister and soon-to-be Prime Minister P. W. Botha told Parliament:

I know of only one occasion in recent years when we crossed a border and that was in the case of Angola when we did so with the approval and knowledge of the Americans. But they left us in the lurch… . The story must be told of how we, with their knowledge, went in there and operated in Angola with their knowledge, how they encouraged us to act and, when we had nearly reached the climax, we were ruthlessly left in the lurch.

The Director of Operations for the Army Jannie Geldenhuys echoed this line in his memoirs. “The turning point of the war … was the new law passed by the American Congress forbidding military support to any Angolan Party.” Various versions of this thesis have been repeated to me by numerous highly placed apartheid-era diplomats, generals, and politicians alike in interviews.

But new evidence and fresh conceptual approaches turn these narratives upside down. Research in a range of South African state archives—civilian and military—enables us to piece us together a much richer picture of South African geopolitics and the relationship with the United States. Meanwhile, bringing South African actors and their worldviews into the foreground provides an entirely different view on the big picture at stake here.

The Cold War did not mean one and the same thing to different actors around the world. Instead, the localised intellectual history of the Cold War should be prioritised: how different languages and idioms were appropriated and internalised by actors in the global south, reinterpreted in politically useful and self-serving ways, and then utilised within the original Cold War paradigm in ways that were quite unexpected by superpowers.

This approach clarifies much of the mythology of American betrayal in Angola, and allows us to see the Cold War in the global south in a new light. Continue reading “Myth and Geopolitics from Below: Apartheid South Africa and America in the Angolan Civil War”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Frank Brangwyn: The last of the HMS Britannia, c 1917, from 'East meets west: Frank Brangwyn and Yoshijiro Urushibara's collaborations – in pictures'
Frank Brangwyn: The last of the HMS Britannia, c 1917, from ‘East meets west: Frank Brangwyn and Yoshijiro Urushibara’s collaborations – in pictures

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

From global Ottomans to transatlantic colonial coutoure, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Children have long been unfairly hit by US presidential executive orders

Children bear the brunt. EPA/Eugene Garcia
Children bear the brunt. EPA/Eugene Garcia

Rachel Pistol
University of Exeter

Around 75 years ago, in February 1942, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced relocation and internment of more than 110,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry. The majority of them were American citizens, and a large proportion were children.

But unlike President Trump’s 2017 executive order to halt immigration and ban refugees from American soil, Roosevelt’s sweeping political move did not provoke any protest or dissent. Both presidents had mentioned the notion of “national security’ in their orders, and both decrees were said to be aimed at specific national groups. So is President Trump merely copying the policy of one of his more popular predecessors?

From the moment the US entered World War II in late 1941, all “enemy aliens” living in America – German, Austrian, Italian, and Japanese – were subject to restrictions on their freedom. These included the imposition of curfews and a ban on owning radios. So the real significance of EO9066, as it is known, was that it authorised the detention not just of enemy aliens, but also of American citizens. In theory, any American citizen could be relocated by order of the military. Continue reading “Children have long been unfairly hit by US presidential executive orders”

Apply by April 17 for an International PhD Student Award @ExeterCIGH

exeter logo

The deadline (April 17) is fast approaching to apply for an international PhD student award, through which you can become a crucial part of the Centre for Imperial and Global History.

We offer internationally-recognised supervision with geographical coverage from staff across African, Asian (including Chinese), Middle Eastern, North American, Latin American, European, Imperial, and Global history from early-modern to contemporary eras. We have strong inter-disciplinary links with colleagues across the humanities and social sciences at Exeter, particularly with the Centre for War, State and Society and the Institute of Arab and Islamic Studies. The Centre has particular research interests in:

  • Globalisation’s past and present
  • Comparative empires and transnationalism
  • Humanitarianism, development and human rights
  • Law and colonialism
  • Political economy and the imperial state
  • Europe, decolonisation and the legacies of empire
  • The impact of armed conflict on society
  • Colonial warfare and counterinsurgency

Continue reading “Apply by April 17 for an International PhD Student Award @ExeterCIGH”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

A soap advertisement from the 1880s, sub-titled 'The Chinese Must Go' Credit: Library of Congress
A soap advertisement from the 1880s, sub-titled ‘The Chinese Must Go’ Credit: Library of Congress

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

From historicizing Trump’s immigration ban to the not-so-special Anglo-American relationship, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”