What Christopher Nolan left out: Dunkirk’s Indian soldiers

Len Puttnam, Men of K6 shortly after disembarking at Marseille, January 1940. Imperial War Museum F2016.

Ghee Bowman
University of Exeter

It’s been a year now since Christopher Nolan’s film Dunkirk was released to critical acclaim, public approval and criticism. Much of the criticism arose because the film omitted any mention of the Commonwealth troops who were in the British Expeditionary Force (BEF) and at Dunkirk.[1] It felt like a missed opportunity to correct an anomaly in the collective memory of Britain and the world: to remember the mule drivers of the Royal Indian Army Service Corps (RIASC) who were also on those beaches.

So here’s the missing piece of the story, derived from my research into Dunkirk’s Indian soldiers.

On May 29, 1940, in the middle of the evacuation of Dunkirk, with thousands of British soldiers lined up on the beaches east of the French town, with a giant pall of smoke from the burning oil refinery, with regular sorties by Luftwaffe planes scattering the queues, and with ships large and small taking men off the beaches, Major Mohammed Akbar Khan of the RIASC marched four miles along the beach at the head of 312 Muslim Indians, en route from Punjab to Pirbright.

These were the men of Force K6. Continue reading “What Christopher Nolan left out: Dunkirk’s Indian soldiers”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From liberal romances of empire to a Russian sailor’s tomb in Singapore, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Brexit, Food Prices, and History

workhouse

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

In case you missed it,  rumors of the May government’s plan to stockpile food supplies have finally gotten people talking about what Brexit will mean for food prices. As dedicated readers of the Forum know, I’ve been trying to draw attention to this important issue ever since the referendum vote.

Two years ago, I organized and chaired a roundtable, “Brexit and Food Prices: The Legacy of the Hungry Forties,” as part of our Global Economics & History Forum at History & Policy. The panelists were Prof. Anthony Howe (East Anglia); Geoff Tansey (Food Systems Academy); Dr. Lindsay Aqui (Queen Mary); and Prof. Sarah Richardson (Warwick).

Professor Anthony Howe (East Anglia) – The Hungry Forties and the Rise of Free Trade England

Dr Sarah Richardson (Warwick) – Food is a Feminist Issue: the legacy of the hungry forties and women’s rights in England

Dr Lindsay Aqui (Queen Mary) – Butter, Bacon and the British Housewife: Food Prices and the 1975 Referendum

Geoff Tansey (Curator, Food Systems Academy; Chair, Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty) – Food: policy, (in)security, poverty, inequality, power, control & Brexit

You can  listen to the podcast recording of the roundtable below: Continue reading “Brexit, Food Prices, and History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

A satirical cartoon of Lord Macartney kneeling before Emperor Qianlong and presenting his “gifts.”CreditCourtesy of the Lewis Walpole Library, Yale University

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

From calling neocons imperialists to the fear of a black France, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Memories from Nemesis: Tale of a Peruvian Maoist

Frank Beyer

“Mao Zedong Thought” was a major global ideology at a time when China didn’t have much to offer the world economically. Chairman Mao influenced a wide range of groups, such as the Black Panthers in the United States and revolutionary movements in Nepal, India, and the Philippines. Mao was also a guiding light for one particular Peruvian revolutionary: Abimael Guzman. This acolyte’s revolution caused radical waves long after Mao’s death in 1976 – and ultimately ended in failure. Continue reading “Memories from Nemesis: Tale of a Peruvian Maoist”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Courtesy of the UK National Science Museum.

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

From the secret history of Marxist alien hunters to letting go of the ‘Anglosphere’, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

The Science Fiction of Empire: the Best of All Possible Worlds?

Dr Tris Kerslake, author of the book Science Fiction and Empire (2010), provides the final post of our multi-week roundtable on science fiction and imperial history, co-edited by Marc-William Palen and Rachel Herrmann. You can read our call for posts here, and the other posts in the series here, here, here, here, herehere, here, and here. Thanks to all of our participants for writing and we’re still looking forward to hearing what you think!

Tris Kerslake
Central Queensland University

It has been a pleasure and an academic delight to be involved in this series of essays focused at the interconnection of Science Fiction (SF) and imperialism. Long considered the sandbox of neo-empire, these particular thought-experiments of SF cast their shadows both backwards and forwards. Continue reading “The Science Fiction of Empire: the Best of All Possible Worlds?”