This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and President Dwight D. Eisenhower, (undated photo).

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

From newly released files on the 1953 Iran coup to the strange tale of the anti-Nazi bestseller, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Iran 1953: State Department Finally Releases Updated Official History of Mosaddeq Coup

Malcolm Byrne
National Security Archive

The State Department today released a long-awaited “retrospective” volume of declassified U.S. government documents on the 1953 coup in Iran. The volume includes fascinating details on Iranian, American and British planning and implementation of the covert operation, as well as information about U.S. contacts with key figures such as Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, and insights into U.S. concerns about the growing influence of communist Tudeh Party.

The publication is the culmination of decades of internal debates and public controversy after a previous official collection omitted all references to the role of American and British intelligence in the ouster of Iran’s then-prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq. The volume is part of the Department’s venerable Foreign Relations of the United States (FRUS) series. For decades, neither the U.S. nor the British governments would acknowledge their part in Mosaddeq’s overthrow, even though a detailed account appeared as early as 1954 in The Saturday Evening Post, and since then CIA and MI6 veterans of the coup have published memoirs detailing their activities. [continue reading]

Vicarious Politics: Violence and the Colonial Period in Contemporary South Korean Film

Kevin Michael Smith
Asia-Pacific Journal

his article will examine four recent South Korean films dealing with the Japanese colonial period and the Korean nationalist resistance movement in particular – Chung Chi-u’s Modern Boy (2008), Ch’ae Tong-hun’s Assassination (Amsal, 2015), Kim Chi-un’s The Age of Shadows (Miljŏng, 2016), and Hŏ Chin-ho’s The Last Princess (Dŏkhye Ongju, 2016). I explore the ways in which these action drama films valorize armed anti-colonial resistance – including, in the case of The Age of Shadows, the international anarchist movement of the 1930s – but in a manner that hermetically seals such political involvement from any corresponding activity in the present.

That is, I frame the anti-Japanese violence in these films through what I call a “vicarious politics,” in which a potential viewer may accompany militant anti-colonial activities through identification with the films’ protagonists, but in such a way that any overlapping concerns, sympathies, or strategies would be unthinkable in the contemporary situation. At worst, the very concept of violence against the state exhibited in these films becomes something criminal rather than commendable when transplanted to the present (this becomes especially pronounced against the backdrop of the South Korean government’s recent anti-terror legislation). [continue reading]

Why Mauritius and the UK are still sparring over decolonisation

Nicholas A. Ioannides

rom 1967 to 1973, the Chagos islanders were gradually forced to flee their homes as the largest island of the Archipelago, namely Diego Garcia, was handed over to the United States in order to become a military base. Despite a long-standing judicial battle, the right of the islanders to return has not been recognised. In 2008, the House of Lords overruled the decision of a lower court by denying the Chagos Islanders the right to return to the islands given that compensation had been paid by the UK in 1982.

Now, the UK Supreme Court has upheld the 2008 ruling despite the disclosure of Foreign Office documents that weren’t at the disposal of the court in 2008. Another case on the loss of the evicted Chagos islanders’ fishing rights is expected to be brought before the Supreme Court in the following months. [continue reading]

First war memorial to Afro-Caribbean soldiers unveiled in London

BBC World News

Britain’s first memorial to the African and Caribbean soldiers of the First and Second World Wars has been unveiled in London. An estimated two million Afro-Caribbean soldiers fought in both world wars.

The sculpture, in Windrush Square, Brixton, is formed of two 6ft (1.8m) long obelisks, with a combined weight of just under five tonnes. Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon said the “recognition today is long overdue”. He added: “I hope this memorial will remind us of the ongoing contribution of our African and Caribbean communities to our country and to the defence of our country.” [continue reading]

Strange tale of the anti-Nazi bestseller, the Stasi spies and the missing Gestapo files

Philip Oltermann

Vincent Pérez’s film Alone in Berlin, which premieres with a grand live event at the Imperial War Museum in London on 26 June, hopes to be a summer hit in British cinemas. Starring Emma Thompson and Brendan Gleeson, the film tells the story of a working-class German couple who embark on a propaganda campaign against Hitler’s regime after learning of the death of their son.

Based on the 1947 novel by the German writer Hans Fallada – a surprise bestseller after Penguin commissioned a new translation in 2009 – it has been hailed as a “redemptive” tale and a “story of resistance and hope”. Unfortunately, real life is rarely that simple. Historians in Germany allege that Fallada’s fictionalised depiction of resistance to the Nazis has only helped to cover up a true story of collaboration with the communist regime that followed in East Germany. [continue reading]


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