This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Gesha Kim

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

From Europe’s tomahawk chops to forgetting Karl Marx, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Tomahawk Chops and Native American Mascots: In Europe, Teams Don’t See a Problem

Andrew Keh
New York Times

Pratt has found herself in the middle of one such debate involving the Exeter Chiefs, the defending champions of England’s rugby union league. Exeter, which rebranded itself as the Chiefs in 1999, calls its team store the Trading Post and its online fan group the Tribe. Fans chat on a message board named Pow-Wow. Among the 15 bars at the team’s home stadium are Wigwam, Cheyenne, Apache, Mohawk, Tomahawk, Buffalo and Bison. Just inside the main entrance to the arena stands the team’s Five Nations Totem Pole, memorializing the five countries visiting Exeter for the 2015 Rugby World Cup (not, as some might guess, the five nations of the Iroquois Confederacy.)

Two years ago, Rachel Herrmann, a historian of early American history at Cardiff University, wrote a blog post criticizing the team after noticing “a bunch of people dressed up as Indians” on a train platform one afternoon and learning that they were fans of the club. Herrmann’s essay “Playing Indian: Exeter Rugby in a Postcolonial Age” was eventually picked up by a local reporter, Ed Oldfield of Devon Live, who reached out to Pratt for her rare perspective as a person who could speak as a member of both the Native American and Exeter communities. [continue reading]

History and the state in postwar Japan

Hatano Sumio
Asia-Pacific Journal

The history problem (rekishi mondai) has been plaguing Japanese foreign relations in the postwar period. Japan is often criticized as being unable to come to terms with its past, and doubts are cast on the historical awareness of the Japanese government and the Japanese people. Neighbouring countries have pointed out that the coverage of war-related issues in Japanese history textbooks is inadequate.

In the background of such criticisms there are strong fears, based on the experience of Japanese colonialism and aggression toward Asia prior to the end of the Second World War, that Japan might once again become a ‘military superpower’. In addition, it is frequently pointed out that reparations, indemnities, expressions of remorse and apologies concerning damages caused by Japanese colonialism and aggression to Asian countries and peoples of Asia have been insufficient and that many issues remain unresolved. Many in Japan share this view. Of course, these questions could have been settled all at once by means of a peace treaty between the victorious and defeated powers, as had been done in the Versailles Peace Treaty after the end of the First World War. However, that did not happen in East Asia after 1945.  [continue reading]

More than 1,000 economists warn Trump his trade views echo 1930s errors

Dominic Rushe

Over a thousand economists have written to Donald Trump warning his “economic protectionism” and tough rhetoric on trade threatens to repeat the mistakes the US made in the 1930s, mistakes that plunged the world into the Great Depression. The 1,140 economists, including 14 Nobel prize winners, sent the letter on Thursday amid an escalating row over trade between the US and the European Union. Trump has imposed tariffs on steel and aluminium imports but has granted temporary reprieves to the EU, Australia and other countries.

“In 1930, 1,028 economists urged Congress to reject the protectionist Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act,” the authors write, citing a trade act that many economists argue was one of the triggers for the Great Depression. “Today, Americans face a host of new protectionist activity, including threats to withdraw from trade agreements, misguided calls for new tariffs in response to trade imbalances, and the imposition of tariffs on washing machines, solar components, and even steel and aluminum used by US manufacturers. [continue reading]

In a Fight Over Syria, Echoes of Spain’s Civil War and the Battle for Truth in Guernica

Robert Mackey

If you listen closely to the angry war of words over whether or not the Syrian government used poison gas in its final assault on the town of Douma, it is possible to detect echoes of a similarly heated dispute that took place during another civil war, eight decades ago.

In the days after the firebombing of the undefended Basque town of Guernica, on April 26, 1937, Spain’s embattled government drew attention to what was then an unprecedented atrocity, the result of more than three hours of airstrikes carried out by a fleet of bombers dispatched by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini in support of their fascist ally, Gen. Francisco Franco. [continue reading]

Karl Marx, the Soviet Union’s Godfather, Is ‘All But Forgotten’ in Russia

Evan Gershkovich
Moscow Times

Two hundred years after Karl Marx was born, a country he never visited is marked with reminders of his legacy. Russia’s most popular social network Vkontakte lists hundreds of people named after the German political economist. In addition to the 1,390 streets throughout the country that bear his name, there is a town called Marx on the Volga River. But nearly 27 years after the fall of the Soviet Union, one of the 19th century’s most influential thinkers has become an afterthought in the first country to implement his ideas as a political system. Leading up to the May 5 anniversary, Russian authorities chose not the mark the occasion at all.

“The official stance is that his revolutionary ideas brought misfortune to the Russian people,” said Lev Gudkov, director of the independent Levada Center pollster. “Russians have all but forgotten him.” With authorities silent ahead of Marx’s birthday, academics and historians are picking up the slack. Throughout the year, universities and museums across the country are hosting conferences and exhibitions in the hope of keeping Marx, who argued inequality is inherent to capitalism, alive not just in the country’s ivory towers, but as a household name too. [continue reading]

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