Empire of Cotton: A Global History, by Sven Beckert (2015)

 Edward Watson
University of Texas at Austin

Cross-posted from Not Even Past

Sven Beckert places cotton at the center of his colossal history of modern capitalism, arguing that the growth of the industry was the “launching pad for the broader Industrial Revolution.” Beckert follows cotton through a staggering spatial and chronological scope. Spanning five thousand years of cotton’s history, with a particular focus on the seventeenth to twentieth centuries, Empire of Cotton is a tale of the spread of industrialization and the rise of modern global capitalism. Through emphasizing the international nature of the cotton industry, Beckert exemplifies how history of the commodity and global history are ideally suited to each other. Produced over the course of ten years and with a transnational breadth of archive material, Empire of Cotton is a bold, ambitious work that confronts challenges that many historians could only dream of attempting.  The result is a popular history that is largely successful in attaining the desirable combination of being both rigorous and entertaining.

Beckert frames his history of cotton with two intertwining terms: “war capitalism” and “industrial capitalism.” Both terms lack precise definitions but Beckert generally refers to their underlying themes. A play on the term “war communism” from the Russian Civil War, “war capitalism” was a period when European statesmen and capitalists established their dominance in global cotton networks, often through violent, imperialist means of conquest and expansion. Beckert counters the notion that Europeans controlled the cotton industry as a result of scientific innovation, arguing that, “Europeans became important to the worlds of cotton not because of new inventions or superior technologies, but because of their ability to reshape and then dominate global cotton networks.” “Industrial capitalism” evokes the more discreet ways in which states intervened to protect the interests of global capitalists through more diplomatic channels, preserving the initial gains made through “war capitalism.” Neither concept is exclusive, with “war capitalism” and “industrial capitalism” continually interacting with one another and overlapping chronologically, as Beckert underscores how “industrial capitalism’s institutional innovations facilitated war capitalism’s death.” Continue reading “Empire of Cotton: A Global History, by Sven Beckert (2015)”

Dockter on Thomas and Toye, ‘Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956’

Authors: Martin Thomas, Richard Toye

Reviewer: Warren Dockter

Martin Thomas, Richard Toye. Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 320 pp. $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-874919-6.Reviewed by Warren Dockter (Aberystwyth University)
Published on H-Diplo (November, 2017)
Commissioned by Seth OffenbachPrintable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=49706“A Silent, Rankling Grudge”

In the autumn issue of Nineteenth Century Review in 1877, W. E. Gladstone wrote an article on legacy of the British Empire and the Eastern Question entitled, “Aggression on Egypt and Freedom in the East.” In addition to supporting notions of self-rule in Egypt, Gladstone warned of the perils of imperial interventions, arguing, “My belief is that the day which witnesses our occupation of Egypt will bid a long farewell to all cordiality of political relations between France and England. There might be no immediate quarrel, no exterior manifestation, but a silent, rankling grudge” (p. 19). These words proved so prophetic that political radical Wilfred Scawen Blunt employed Gladstone’s rhetoric against him in his work The Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt (1907), writing that “this article is so remarkable and so wonderfully prescient of evils he was himself destined to inflict upon Egypt that it deserves quoting” (p. 57). This exchange serves to illustrate the fluid nature of imperial rhetoric and the discursive relationship which formed between the British and French Empires.

Martin Thomas and Richard Toye have written a remarkably ambitious and excellent study which examines the intersections of imperial rhetoric between the French and British Empires during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book is based on seven case studies that focus on moments of imperial  intervention in which both the French and Britain played an equal part, ranging from Tunisia and Egypt in the early 1880s through to Suez in 1956. This breadth allows the reader to see the evolution of imperial rhetoric in Britain and France while illustrating how policymakers in their respective metropoles became intrinsically linked, forcing them toward “co-imperialism.” This is particularly true regarding the Middle East and North Africa, where the British and French Empires remained in concert from nineteenth century until the realities of full-scale decolonization became apparent in latter half of the twentieth century. Continue reading “Dockter on Thomas and Toye, ‘Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956’”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Inmates of a relief camp in Madras (during the famine of 1876-1878), by Willoughby Wallace Hooper. Image credit: Wikimedia Commons

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

From memorializing Britain’s colonial crimes to the end of “Western civilization,” here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Crafting your PhD proposal: Routes to originality in historical research

PhD funding opportunities & introducing the new Exeter History MA by Research degree

Interested in advanced studies in imperial and global history at the University of Exeter?

Please find a list of a variety of PhD funding opportunities below, as well as information about our new MA by research degree.

PhD funding

AHRC South West and Wales Doctoral Training Partnership  Closing date for applications – 11 January 2018.

Up to 60 scholarships available across the consortium in all subject areas. Please remember that students will for preference be supervised across two institutions within the DTP, unless there is a compelling reason to be located at one institution (the DTP = Exeter, Bristol, Reading, Bath, Bath Spa, Cardiff, Aberystwyth, and Southampton).

ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership – +3 or 1+3 Doctoral Studentship – Economic and Social History (including projects with quantitative or strongly social science methodologies). Closing deadline – noon on 30 January 2018.

Wellcome Doctoral Studentships, covering Medical History. These awards are open to Home, EU or International students. The deadline for applications is the 29 March 2018 but applicants require departmental support to apply  so please contact s.hynd@exeter.ac.uk about applying before February 2018.

Further information about funding for students from particular countries and the University’s Sanctuary Scholarship for refugees and individuals seeking asylum can be found here:  https://humanities.exeter.ac.uk/graduateschool/funding/

new MA by Research degree

Also, to complement our taught MA in History degree programme, the History Department is now offering a new MA by Research (Streatham), which is now open for applications to start study in January 2018.  This joins the pre-existing MA by Research in History (Penryn).

The MA by Research is examined by a 40,000-word written dissertation based on original research. Following University guidance and student loan regulations, the MA by Research is now accredited as a 2 year degree (3 years part-time) but students can submit earlier  (i.e. do it as a one year degree). The programme can be pursued part-time and by distance-learning.

It is intended both as a degree in its own right, and can also act as a progression route for transfer onto the MPhil/PhD programme for students who make strong progress in the first six months and wish to pursue a PhD. Continue reading “PhD funding opportunities & introducing the new Exeter History MA by Research degree”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From technoglobalism and its discontents to uncovering 21st-century slave auctions, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

James Mark Discusses ‘Red Globalization’ on BBC Radio 4

In case you missed it last week, the Centre for Imperial and Global History’s  Professor James Mark was on BBC Radio 4 discussing ‘Red’ globalization:

Marxism – Laurie Taylor talks to David Harvey, Professor of Anthropology at CUNY and world authority on Marx’s thought. His latest book explores the architecture of capital & insists that Marx’s original analysis of our economic system still resonates today. They’re joined by Jonathan Sperber, Professor of History at the University of Missouri. He insists that Marx was a 19th century figures who ideas have run their course. Also, ‘red’ globalisation. James Mark, Professor of History at the University of Exeter, tells a little known story about the way in which anti capitalist ideas once circulated the globe. [Listen to the programme]