This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

march British union of Fascists
The march by the British Union of Fascists through London’s East End that led to the battle of Cable Street, 4 October 1936. Photograph: Derek Berwin/Getty Images

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

From the anti-imperial networks of the Global South to the return of the 1930s, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Afro-Asian links to Latin America, The Origins of the Global South at the UN

Alanna O’Malley

As research expands on the global origins of anti-imperialism and the historical rise of the Global South, definitions of the composition of this group expand and contract across the twentieth century. Interestingly, the role of Latin American states changes in the varying configurations of the Global South grouping over this time. From the late nineteenth century onwards, the growth of anti-imperialist networks and activist groups in European metropoles from Paris to Berlin was only partially reflected among similar groups in Latin America, who tended to be more focused on regional cooperation and efforts to resist American hegemony across the continent. Although Latin American anti-imperialists were supporters of the crusade against colonialism, their quest for assertion of the right to self-determination was rooted in a different starting point.

As opposed to the Western colonialism practised in Africa and Asia which bound together independence leaders as politically diverse as Prime Minister of India Jawaharlal Nehru and Indonesian President Sukarno with Ghanaian Prime Minister Kwame Nkrumah and Algeria’s President Ahmed Ben Bella, it was the invisible colonial yoke of the United States across Latin America that produced a fervour of anti-imperialist feeling which, into the twentieth century, began to blend with the struggle against European imperialist policies across Africa and Asia. [continue reading]

“There is no drama like the drama of history”: C.L.R. James and The Black Jacobins

Andrew Hartman

Two of the greatest history books ever written emerged three years apart: W.E.B. Du Bois’s Black Reconstruction in America (1935) and C.L.R. James’s Black Jacobins: Toussaint L’Ouverture and the San Domingo Revolution (1938). Both were about race, class, slavery, and revolution, and both were forged with comparable purposes. Du Bois and James sought that their historical insights about revolutions past would speak to revolutions future.

Du Bois, the most important African American intellectual of the twentieth century, wished for his trailblazing analysis of the Civil War and Reconstruction to endow the wisdom of past struggles upon the coming movement for black rights in the United States. James, a Trinidadian living in London at the time of writing and one of the most important intellectuals of the twentieth-century black diaspora, hoped that his remarkable inquiry into the Haitian Revolution would speak to the emerging anticolonial movements for independence in Africa. [continue reading]

Persia Campbell, Our Woman at the United Nations

Anne Rees
Australian Women’s History Network

On a spring evening in 1974, an elderly resident of Queens, New York was found unconscious on her kitchen floor. She was rushed to hospital, and died of a stroke soon after. In the weeks that followed, her children received expressions of condolence from around the world. After the New York Times published a eulogy, tributes poured forth from Buenos Aires, Auckland, Geneva, London, and Washington D.C., bearing letterheads from the International Federation of University Women (IFUW), UNICEF and the U.S. federal government. The authors were more than usually generous in their praise. ‘I admired her extravagantly’, confessed IFUW president Elizabeth May; she was a ‘legend’ at the London School of Economics noted economist Allan Fisher. ‘[She] was held in the highest regard and affection by all of us the United Nations who had the pleasure of working with her’, recalled Gilberto Rizzo. She was a ‘highly revered colleague’, a ‘truly remarkable woman’, who ‘was fortunate to die at the pinnacle of her career’.

Although this woman died in New York and was mourned in high places throughout Europe and the Americas, her life began far from the world’s halls of power. Her name was Persia Campbell, and she was born to schoolteachers in Australia, in regional New South Wales, during the last gasp of the nineteenth century. Campbell became an economist, internationalist and UN lobbyist, whose career was dedicated to ‘foster[ing] higher living standards across the world’. [continue reading]

Dutch elections and colonial continuity: The history of race and racism in Dutch nation-building

Sara Salem
Postcolonialism and Its Discontents

Today is the Dutch general election to determine which parties will control Dutch parliament. It is essentially a race between Geert Wilders and the PVV and Mark Rutte and the VVD – one a far-right party and the other a center-right one.

This election, and the campaigning around it, should by now prove two things: the first that the political spectrum in the Netherlands has moved to the right to such an extent that the term leftist politics is all but meaningless; and the second is that the emergence of Islam and race as central topics of debate is not something “new” and is not even an emergence in any technical sense; if anything it represents a continuity with older colonial modes of self-identification. In an Al Jazeera piece on the elections, this quote caught my eye: [continue reading]

The 1930s were humanity’s darkest, bloodiest hour. Are you paying attention?

Jonathan Freedland

Even to mention the 1930s is to evoke the period when human civilisation entered its darkest, bloodiest chapter. No case needs to be argued; just to name the decade is enough. It is a byword for mass poverty, violent extremism and the gathering storm of world war. “The 1930s” is not so much a label for a period of time than it is rhetorical shorthand – a two-word warning from history.

Witness the impact of an otherwise boilerplate broadcast by the Prince of Wales last December that made headlines: “Prince Charles warns of return to the ‘dark days of the 1930s’ in Thought for the Day message.” Or consider the reflex response to reports that Donald Trump was to maintain his own private security force even once he had reached the White House. The Nobel prize-winning economist Paul Krugman’s tweet was typical: “That 1930s show returns.” [continue reading]

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