This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Asia and Pacific Rim Peace Conference, Beijing, October 2, 1952

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

From the Cold War art of peace to how ISIS became Islam’s version of the Ku Klux Klan, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

The Art of Peace in the Early Cold War

Rachel Leow

Kosambi wrote an account of this preparatory meeting for the APC shortly afterward, describing it as a grand, inspiring affair in which no expense was spared. Guo Moruo, the romantic-turned-socialist Chairman of the China Peace Committee, opened the ceremony. His was a stirring speech, warning of amassing violence in Asia, and highlighting the crucial position of the Asian-Pacific region in the quest for world peace.

The largest reception room of the hotel was converted into a special assembly hall: a large oval table seated delegates from twenty different countries in alphabetical order, each with its own placard stating the country name in its own language and in Chinese, and a small silken national flag adorned each setting. The only other decoration on the walls was a huge reproduction of Picasso’s famous composition of the Dove of Peace, used to illustrate the 1949 Peace Congress in Paris, after which it rapidly became a symbol both of peace and world communism. [continue reading]

Two Scottish architects in Mumbai

Sarah Longair
Four Nations History

On a station platform in York in 1904, John Begg (1866­–1937), Consulting Architect to the Government of Bombay, interviewed fellow Scot George Wittet (1878–1926) for the post of his assistant. Begg’s wife warned him against this appointment: ‘whatever you do, don’t have that fellow: he will boss you’.[i] Begg may have found the name Wittet familiar, as he coincided from 1888–9 with George’s cousin, John (1868–1952), while training in the offices of the famed Scottish architect and antiquarian Hippolyte Blanc.

Begg ignored his wife’s advice and appointed George Wittet, who took up the post in India later in 1904. After three years as an assistant, Wittet succeeded Begg in the Consulting Architect for Bombay role when the latter was promoted to Consulting Architect of the Government of India. Between them, Begg and Wittet created some of the most famous of Mumbai’s landmarks and important buildings elsewhere in India. Begg was responsible for numerous buildings in his twenty-year career in India while Wittet’s major works included the Prince of Wales Museum (now the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya museum) and the Gateway to India, the symbolic backdrop to the departure of the last British troops to leave the subcontinent in 1948. [continue reading]

U.S. Military Spending: The Cost of Wars

Anthony Cordesman

One of the striking aspects of American military power is how little serious attention is spent on examining the key elements of its total cost by war and mission, and the linkage between the use of resources and the presence of an effective strategy. For the last several decades, there has been little real effort to examine the costs of key missions and strategic commitments and the longer term trends in force planning and cost. Both the Executive Branch and the Congress have failed to reform any key aspect of the defense and foreign policy budgets to look beyond input budgeting by line item and by military service, and doing so on an annual basis.

The program budgeting and integrated force planning efforts pioneered towards the end of the Eisenhower Administration—and put into practice in the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations—have decayed into hollow shells. The effort to create meaningful Future Year Defense Programs seem to have been given a final death blow by the Budget Control Act (BCA)—legislation originally designed to be so stupid that the Congress could not possibly accept it. Efforts to integrate net assessment with budget submissions were effectively killed by the Joint Staff decades earlier, during the Reagan Administration. [continue reading]

Land and Liberation: The Legacy of Zimbabwe’s Revolutionary Struggle

Chase Barney
Age of Revolutions

Independence in most of southern Africa came with bloodshed, and came much later than elsewhere on the continent largely due to the presence of significant white settler communities in Angola, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, and South Africa. Known as Southern Rhodesia until 1964, and simply Rhodesia until 1979,  Zimbabwe’s revolutionary struggle was a complex mixture of black nationalism, communist ideology, and racial liberation that sought to overturn the social, economic, and political order. The white minority government monopolized power through an aggressively racialized system of political and economic discrimination, not completely unlike apartheid in South Africa. As the 40th anniversary of Zimbabwe’s independence approaches, the roots of Zimbabwe’s liberation ideology—race and land—remain ever prominent.

The liberation struggle in Zimbabwe grew out of a combination of internal and international pressure on the white minority government of Southern Rhodesia to enfranchise its black population. Self-governing since 1923, but still a Crown colony of the British Empire, the Southern Rhodesian government began asking for full political independence by the early 1960s. [continue reading]

How extremists hijacked Ramadan, a month of peace, and turned it into a month of terror

Juan Cole
Washington Post

In mainstream Islam, Ramadan is a month of fasting, worship and introspection. But over the past few years, extremists have weaponized the holiday for their own purposes. Rather than serving as a time to pursue inner peace, Ramadan has become the month when law enforcement in the Muslim world, Europe and the United States often put out alerts urging vigilance. This hijacking of Ramadan puzzles and enrages the vast majority of Muslims. It also reveals the various ways in which the so-called “Islamic State” has waged a dual war against the West and against Islam itself.

The London Bridge attack of June 3 derived from this extremist strategy. A spokesman for the Muslim Council of Britain typified the reaction of British Muslims when he said, “That this should happen in this month of Ramadan, when many Muslims were praying and fasting, only goes to show that these people respect neither life nor faith.” [continue reading]