From the lost internationalism of Wendell Willkie to a history of authoritarian time changes, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
Why Wendell Willkie, and why now? At first glance, the failed 1940 Republican presidential aspirant, corporate lawyer, and advocate of “one world” appears to have left only a glancing trace on the 20th century. Conventional wisdom sees him as an accessory to history, a courageous also-ran, and a fortuitous ally for his 1940 Democratic opponent, then-two-term president Franklin Roosevelt. Willkie is praised as a poignant reminder of a long-lost liberal Republicanism, a great bipartisan spirit who helped banish the party’s so-called “isolationism.” Jousting in the press with Charles Lindbergh’s America First Committee and offering critical support for Roosevelt’s Lend-Lease program, which provided crucial aid to Britain, Willkie gave the canny operator in the White House the political cover to lead the country into war.
This take, cribbed from the “team of rivals” school of political history, arrives prepackaged with a built-in appeal, a familiar story of national sacrifice for the “good war.” Walter Lippmann, the ultimate keeper of conventional wisdom, first floated it back in 1944, just after Willkie’s untimely death: “Under any other leadership but his, the Republican party would have turned its back on Great Britain, causing all who still resisted Hitler to feel that they were abandoned.” Willkie had served his purpose, the story went, helping the Allies to defeat fascism and doing his bit to propel the indispensable nation to its rightful role as leader of the free world, and then left the scene. From there, the postwar consensus was all but a fait accompli. The businessman turned politician, as David Levering Lewis puts it in his rousing new biography, The Improbable Wendell Willkie: The Businessman Who Saved the Republican Party and His Country, and Conceived a New World Order, “save[d] the GOP to save freedom.” [continue reading]
Australian colonial government forces were involved in almost half the frontier massacres of Aboriginal people – many more than previously thought – according to a new analysis. Guardian Australia has updated and analysed the most comprehensive record of frontier conflicts and massacres available, revealing a detailed picture of the frontier wars in Australia.
The Colonial Frontier Massacres in Central and Eastern Australia 1788-1930 project records the details of any mass killing which resulted in more than six deaths, relying on sources such as journals, letters, interviews and news articles. Using a similar methodology, Guardian Australia added additional massacres from Western Australia and added new categories to allow for more detailed analysis. [continue reading]
New York Times
Paul Gilroy, a British scholar known for his studies of black cultural expression on both sides of the Atlantic, has won Norway’s Holberg Prize, awarded each year to a scholar who has made outstanding contributions to research in the arts, humanities, the social sciences, law or theology.
The prize committee, in a citation, called Mr. Gilroy, 63, “one of the most challenging and inventive figures in contemporary scholarship.” His landmark 1993 book “The Black Atlantic: Modernity and Double Consciousness,” which argued that slavery and the slave trade created a hybrid culture that transcended national boundaries, transformed the study of the African diaspora and “offered an alternative to essentialist conceptions of identity by showing how race, nation and ethnicity are culturally constituted,” the prize committee wrote. [continue reading]
On August 15, 2015, Kim Jong-un had everyone in North Korea set back their clocks by thirty minutes. He turned back the hands of time in both a literal and figurative sense. The newly created Pyongyang time zone, a celebration of seventy years of Korean independence from Japan, evoked a more idyllic era of a united Korea before its occupation. When Japan colonized Korea in 1910, all the clocks were moved forward thirty minutes to Japanese time, where they had henceforth remained. And just as the initial switch in time zone signaled a consolidation of power for Tokyo, so too was Kim’s switch back a symbolic gesture of contempt—at least according to the country’s state news agency—for the “wicked Japanese imperialists.”
The case of Pyongyang time is far from the only example of an authoritarian changing a territory’s time zone as a means of asserting political control. And although setting clocks back or forward is often seen as one of the more benign uses of power (akin to changing a nation’s flag or national anthem), it’s interesting to note that ever since time zones began standardizing in the mid-nineteenth century, the manipulation of time has proved to be an almost irresistible draw for authoritarian rulers. [continue reading]