From feminism, fascism, and frogs to the end(s) of the international order, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
In the summer of 1945, the Brazilian scientist and suffragist Bertha Lutz arrived in San Francisco to participate as a delegate at the United Nation’s founding conference. At first glance, Lutz’s presence at the conference seems a logical step in her impressive feminist career. Lutz had been at the forefront of Brazil’s suffrage movement for decades as president of the Federação Brasileira pelo Progresso Feminino (Brazilian Federation for Feminine Progress, FBPF). After Brazilian women achieved the vote in 1932, Lutz became one of the first women elected to Congress.
Lutz was also a leading figure of the international feminist scene in the interwar years, participating in numerous global conferences on suffrage and women’s rights, and closely allying herself with Carrie Chapman Catt’s U.S. National American Woman Suffrage Association (NAWSA). Her feminist organizing in the 1920s and 30s was matched only by her dedication to her scientific career. Trained as a zoologist and working as a herpetologist (the study of frogs), Lutz gained international prominence in the 1930s, a period when prominent female careers in science were rare in Brazil—and across the globe. [continue reading]
There are many terrible things about Brexit, most of which I counted, mournfully, on the night of the referendum while hiding in a stairwell because I was too depressed to talk to anyone at the party I’d just run away from. But one of the biggest didn’t hit me until the next day, when I met a friend and (I’m aware how ridiculous this may sound) suddenly remembered she was Dutch. She has been here 20 years, her entire adult life, and it’s not that I thought she was British exactly; I’d just stopped noticing she was foreign.
Except now, post-referendum, she very definitely was and her right to remain in Britain was suddenly up for grabs. Eleven months on, the government has yet to clarify the matter for any of Britain’s three million European residents. For some reason, ministers seem to think this is OK. [continue reading]
Countless Yemeni lives hang in the balance as President Donald Trump gears up to greatly deepen U.S. security cooperation with Saudi Arabia. On his visit to the kingdom on Saturday, the first stop on his first international trip, he will no doubt hear a lot from his Gulf counterparts about the Yemen conflict, and the threats posed by Iranian and al Qaeda influence there. But he is likely to hear far less about a different but equally serious threat to the country: famine. Reckless Saudi military policy has pushed Yemen to the brink of humanitarian collapse, and the kingdom is asking for more U.S. military support. If the U.S. doubles down on the Saudi approach, it will likely consign several million people to starvation.
The Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen began intensive bombings just over two years ago, after a hostile alliance of Houthi militants and allies of Yemen’s former dictator, Ali Abdullah Saleh, managed to overthrow and expel the internationally recognized elected government. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthis as a direct security threat — the group regularly attacks the kingdom’s southern border — but also sees them, critically, as a proxy for Iran. Given burgeoning antipathy between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Riyadh is pursuing the forcible restoration of the elected Yemeni government as an important bulwark against Iranian influence on the Arabian Peninsula. This will no doubt resonate with Trump’s desire to reinforce a regional balance of power against Iran. [continue reading]
It is one hundred years since the Russian revolution, or revolutions, in February and October, 1917. An anniversary: the result of the imposition of time on the flux of human activity. China Miéville has written a history of those two revolutions, distributing those busy human moves, those chaotic activities, with another measure of time: the month. October stretches out John Reed’s temporality in Ten Days that Shook the World, extending the days considered to three hundred or more, and so widens the aperture, increases the resolution. Reed wrote about the ten momentous days in around ten days or nights, frenzied, shut away from everyone – and with piles of placards, papers and a Russian dictionary – but he began with the title that referred to time and he wrote it twenty four hours a day.
When we talk of revolution, we talk of time, in various ways. Revolutions, it is said, need to seize the moment, but which moment, what day, when? Revolutions hasten things, speed up things, or they stop them, freeze them in time. Revolutionary time is the time of stopped clocks and new calendars. The revolutionary activist Grace Lee Boggs began every meeting with the question: ‘What time is it on the clock of the world?’ [continue reading]
These days, the pulse of the world’s political health is running fast. The general prognosis is terminal, the end of the international world order, as we know it. But determining what order we are on the verge of losing could do with more diagnosis, including tracking the symptoms of the disorder (and order) back to their beginnings. One of the useful roles that historians can play in this regard is to offer a longer view of what we have lost, or, at least, the international order that seems to be disappearing from view. So bear with me as I offer a “Cook’s tour” of two centuries in search of the point where the end possibly began, in order to understand better the history of the aims—or “ends”—of international order itself. [continue reading]