This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Chinese Furniture Makers, Little Bourke-Street, 1880.

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

From untold histories of Chinese migrant workers in Australia to asking how Indian is Kashmir, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.


Agitators and organisers: untold histories of Chinese migrant workers in Australia

Osmond Chiu
Peril

The stereotype of migrant workers is that of meek and compliant workers, exploited by their bosses as inexpensive labour. It was one that fuelled resentment against Chinese workers in Australia in the late 19th century. The history of the Chinese working in Australia was one of discrimination, from riots in Lambing Flats and exclusionary legislation passed by colonial governments, culminating in the White Australia Policy. Yet history shows that contrary to the cultivated image of compliance and exploitation the story of Chinese workers in Australia is far more complex.

Chinese furniture workers in Australia understood the importance of collective action in the workplace, but they were not welcomed into the existing furniture trade unions. The unions saw them as unfair competitors and actively pursued an anti-Chinese agenda, claiming that Chinese workers undermined the pay and conditions of other workers. Working with other furniture factory owners, they formed anti-Chinese associations whose agitation resulted in discriminatory legislation and mandated the stamping of furniture as ‘Chinese labour’ or ‘European labour only’. [continue reading]

‘Hundreds of East Germans came to get through the border. I only had minutes to decide whether I would stop them or not. I think I made the right choice’

Zsófia Nagy-Vargha
Hungary Today

August 19, 1989. He stood at the temporary border in Sopronpuszta with a gun on his side. Lieutenant Colonel Árpád Bella was in charge of the border patrol and sent to the “Pan-European Picnic” that day. A celebration of the eradication of European borders was organized in the spirit of the Austro-Hungarian overture. The plan was that as part of the picnic, a 100 member Hungarian delegation will cross the border at three in the afternoon, walking to the nearest Austrian village where they would be welcomed and then they will return home. However, at three o’clock, hundreds of East Germans appeared at the gate of the border and knocked it down to finally be able to reach the western part of their country. Hungary Today’s sister-site, Ungarn Heute had the opportunity to interview Lt. Col. Árpád Bella, who on the morning of August 19, 1989, did not even suspect that he would write history that day. [continue reading]

World War 2: The Economic Battle: Episode 1

Duncan Weldon
BBC Radio 4

The countries involved in the First World War knew how vital a strong economy was to success on the battle field. In this episode of World War 2: The Economic Battle, Duncan Weldon looks at the British economy in the interwar period until 1940, from recession and rearmament to the fall of France. [listen here]

Donald Trump Joked About Trading Puerto Rico for Greenland

Alexandra Hutzler
Newsweek

President Donald Trump has reportedly talked about purchasing Greenland for over a year and once even quipped about trading Puerto Rico for the autonomous Danish region, according to a new report by The New York Times. The Times article noted that while buying the ice-covered island was not at the top of the president’s to-do list, he did talk about it in private with aides and even floated the idea to the National Security Council.

“At one point last year, according to a former official who heard him, he even joked in a meeting about trading Puerto Rico for Greenland — happy to rid himself of an American territory whose leadership he has feuded with repeatedly,” the report said. President Trump has been largely ridiculed after it was first reported last week that he pushed his top aides to investigate whether the U.S. could buy the Danish island. The president’s request “bewildered” his staffers, according to The Washington Post article. Denmark Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen responded to Trump’s interest by repeatedly stating that Greenland is not up for sale. Frederiksen also called the entire situation “an absurd discussion.” [continue reading]

How Indian is Kashmir?

Andrew Whitehead
History Workshop

Earlier this month, the Indian government removed the special constitutional status of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. At the same time, the government announced that that the state was to be cut in two and that both parts would be turned to Union Territories, largely governed from Delhi. Jammu and Kashmir is India’s only state where Muslims are in a majority. It has been fought over between India and Pakistan ever since independence in 1947, and for the past thirty years has endured a separatist insurgency which has claimed, according to the conservative estimate given by the Indian government, at least 42,000 lives. This was the biggest change in its constitutional status since the 1950s.

Support for the move extended well beyond the ranks of India’s governing Hindu nationalist BJP – and what opposition there was focussed on the manner in which the changes were introduced more than the measures themselves. In the state itself, Hindu-majority Jammu and largely Buddhist Ladakh – both of which are content being part of India and resent the association with rebellious Kashmir – broadly endorsed the changes. But in the Kashmir Valley, overwhelmingly Muslim and the heartland of the Kashmiri language and culture, the move was greeted by a sullen fury and despair. [continue reading]

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