This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From democratizing foreign policy to who is an American citizen, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Democratizing U.S. Foreign Policy

Daniel Bessner and Stephen Weirthem
Foreign Affairs

In August 2016, 50 Republican U.S. national security officials published a letter opposing Donald Trump’s bid for the presidency. This group, which included such well-known experts as Aaron Friedberg, Dov Zakheim, and Philip Zelikow, declared in no uncertain terms that, if elected, Trump “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.” The letter sank without a trace within days of its release. The public had no desire to heed the so-called experts. On the Fox News website, where one might expect Republicans to receive a fair hearing, commentators lambasted the signatories as members of a disgraced “establishment” in which they had no trust.

Such vitriol affirms what Tom Nichols recently argued in these pages—that Americans have “lost faith in expertise”—and suggests that foreign policy expertise is facing particular discredit. This diagnosis raises two critical questions. Why has the public spurned the experts when it comes to foreign affairs? And how can experts restore the public’s trust? [continue reading]

No One is a Stranger: Immigration Historians Mobilize to Educate and Advocate

Kritika Agarwal
Perspectives on History

The e-mails started flooding historian Erika Lee’s inbox the week after the election of Donald J. Trump. Lee, who is director of the Immigration History Research Center at the University of Minnesota and has written extensively about US immigration history, recalls that her fellow scholars had “questions like ‘what are we going to do when the deportation trains start running again?’” After all, Trump had promised throughout his campaign to deport “illegal” immigrants, build a wall on the US-Mexico border, and end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which allows some undocumented immigrants who entered the country under age 16 to apply for work permits.

“Many of us started organizing right away to participate in the sanctuary campus movement,” Lee said, referring to the nationwide effort by students and faculty to designate universities as sanctuary spaces that protect undocumented students. But she also started thinking about doing something that was “not just on our individual campuses.” She found herself asking: “What is the role of the public intellectual right now? What’s the role of historians specifically, and in particular immigration historians?” [continue reading]

China Today: Communism for Americans in the 1930s

Fei Guo
Not Even Past

China Today was a monthly periodical and the official organ of the American Friends of the Chinese People (AFCP), an organization formed by a group of American Communist Party members and left-leaning intellectuals devoted to introducing the Chinese communist revolutionary movement to Americans. Located in New York, the AFCP also organized public talks on Chinese politics and economics. The journal never became widely popular, with its highest monthly sale of a mere 7,000 copies, yet it remained influential among left-wing intellectuals who shared a concern for events in China.

The editors included Philip Jaffe and a secret Communist Party member and graduate student at Columbia University, Chi Ch’ao-ting, using the pseudonym Hansu Chan. Chi joined the Communist Party in America, and together with a few other Chinese students, formed the Chinese Bureau of the Communist Party of USA. With the help of Moscow, Chi was able to receive Chinese Communist Party (CCP) documents, which became an important source for articles in China Today. [continue reading]

The Path to War

Michael Neiburg

People have often asked me over the past few months what I thought the United States was going to do to mark the centenary of American entry into World War I. I used to reply only half-jokingly that I figured that we would do what we did 100 years ago: we would wake up, realize there is a crisis, throw a lot of effort into it, declare victory, and then forget it ever happened.

But now that we are getting closer and closer to the event, I realize I was wrong. Nothing of the kind has happened. There have been a few conferences, terrific museum exhibits, and some efforts at the local level, but very little at the national level. The World War I Centennial Commission even failed to get any federal funding for its modest goal of building a small memorial on the long forgotten Pershing Park near the White House. I have done a few media interviews over the last few years, but the unpleasant truth is that more European media outlets have contacted me than American ones. [continue reading]

Are Puerto Ricans really American citizens?

Charles R. Venator-Santiago

In a recent poll, 41 percent of respondents said they did not believe that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens, and 15 percent were not sure. Only 43 percent answered that Puerto Ricans were U.S. citizens. Today, being born in Puerto Rico is tantamount to being born in the United States. But it wasn’t always that way, and a lot of ambiguity still remains.

Contrary to what many people believe, the Jones Act, which Congress passed 100 years ago, was neither the first nor last citizenship statute for Puerto Ricans. Since 1898, Congress has debated 101 bills related to citizenship in Puerto Rico and enacted 11 overlapping citizenship laws. Over time, these bills have conferred three different types of citizenship to persons born in Puerto Rico. I’m part of an ongoing collaborative project that seeks to document and clarify the laws around citizenship for Puerto Ricans. For the first time, we’re making available to the public all citizenship legislation that has been debated between 1898 and today in a web-based archive. [continue reading]

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