This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From reading Marx on migration to the anti-imperial empire, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.


Reading Marx on Migration

Chris Szabla
Legal Form

If any specter is most clearly haunting the wealthiest states of the world today, it is the specter of nativism. It has become a tired cliché to recount the number and nature of political forces that have risen on the strength of fear of the migrant other, real or imagined. What is less thoroughly documented is the extent to which those forces span class and ideological divides. It is not merely the populist Trumps, Farages, Orbans, and Salvinis who call for migration moratoria, nor characteristically compromising centrists of all stripes, but any number of leftists who have voiced opinions characterizing newcomers either as “culture war” wedge issues in otherwise straightforwardly politico-economic fights or cheap labor scabs imported to keep the incomes of the working class under water.

Bernie Sanders’ record on the issue is symptomatic of the tendency: denouncing guest-worker programs proposed in US immigration legislation as wage-lowering, excoriating the very idea of “open borders” as a “Koch brothers proposal”, and most recently declining for a time to call for the shutdown of the notorious Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency, the most vicious instrument of Trumpist border fetishism. [continue reading]

In Croatia, Nazi Sympathizers Are Welcome to Join the Party

Una Hajdari and Michael Colborne
Foreign Policy

Marko Perkovic—known professionally as Thompson—is far from a household name outside of Croatia. The gristly-voiced Thompson, 51, had been cause for controversy long before Croatia’s national soccer team made its Cinderella run to the 2018 World Cup final. Thompson has long been associated by many with the Croatian Nazi-era puppet state, the Independent State of Croatia, colloquially referred to as the Ustashe, the name of the fascist party behind that state. One of his songs opens with the chant “Za dom spremni!”—“Ready for the home[land],” the Croatian version of the Nazi salute “Sieg Heil.” Local outlets have even reported that he performed a song celebrating the Jasenovac concentration camp, where the Ustashe killed an estimated 83,000 people, including Serbs, Jews, and Roma.

But less than 24 hours after Croatia’s loss to France in the World Cup final—a bittersweet moment, but a silver medal that was still seen as a major accomplishment worthy of celebration for the country of 4 million people—Thompson was riding along with the players on a victory parade from Zagreb’s airport and joined them on stage in front of hundreds of thousands of fans in the center of town. [continue reading]

What “M*A*S*H” Taught Us

Howard Fishman
New Yorker

Rationality has lost its currency. The people in charge are dolts—masters of manipulation making testosterone-fuelled, incendiary moves on the world stage. Patriotism has soured into ugly, gun-loving nationalism, with brown people and foreigners the targets of a nonsensical, hateful rage. Normalcy has vanished. Everyone is freaked out—overworked, irritable, unable to sleep, nerves completely shot. Each morning seems to bring some fresh hell, a reminder that the nightmare is real, and that there is no end in sight. Salvation is found in small, personal connections, in wry humor, and in the forlorn hope that intelligence and decency will ultimately prevail.

That’s one way to describe the basic plot of “m*a*s*h,” with the added details that the protagonists are doctors and nurses in a war zone, and the setting is the Korean War. Lost among this year’s observances of the paradigm-shifting cultural events of 1968 is the fiftieth anniversary of the book “mash: A Novel About Three Army Doctors,” a little-remembered shaggy-dog volume by Richard Hooker that engendered fourteen more novels; a feature-film adaptation (directed by the then up-and-coming Robert Altman); and one of the highest-rated television series of all time. [continue reading]

How Do We Make Global History Work

Priya Atwal
Historical Transactions

As an early career academic with an interest in global history, I attended the first day of the symposium with a view to understanding more about how the university space is working to adapt itself in order to ‘embrace the global turn’, and how this may well impact on the practice of historians going forward. The formal discussions (as well as the on-going conversations over tea and lunch) showed just how many challenges and opportunities the practicalities of ‘doing global history’ have thrown up for historians individually and the higher education sector as a whole.

The tightly-packed programme aimed to explore the multi-faceted issues connected with this question by adopting a punchy and lively approach to stimulating discussion: running four panels a day, each with three 10-minute summary papers, followed by plenty of time for debate with the audience. The topics included were wide-ranging and eye-opening: drawing on insights from academic research collaborations across continents, alongside reflecting on the value of museum expertise for interdisciplinary projects, as well as on the importance of working closely with university librarians to shape new kinds of undergraduate curricula. [continue reading]

The Anti-Imperial Empire?

David Armitage
Times Literary Supplement

The United States has long been the peakaboo empire: now you see it, now you don’t. The American empire comes into focus at moments of stress or success – the Spanish–American War, the Second World War, 9/11, the Second Gulf War – but fades away when the crisis abates. Empire-talk has tracked these peaks and troughs: it ramped up during the second Bush presidency but then fell off markedly during the Obama years.

It has barely returned under the Trump administration, despite all its bluster about “making America great again”, the President’s frustrated inability to detach himself from his predecessors’ military commitments, and the country’s seeming death-struggle with China for global hegemony. Where are the empire analysts of yesteryear? When, if ever, will the American empire reappear? [continue reading]

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