This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

The flags of Oklahoma, the United States and the Cherokee Nation fly behind a sculpture of Lady Liberty at the Cherokee Capitol Square in Tahlequah, Okla., Friday, July 8, 2011. JEFF LAUTENBERGER/Tulsa World

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

From Trump’s ignorance of American power to ideas of European union before the EU, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Daniel Immerwahr
New York Times

President Trump announced on Tuesday that he would postpone a planned trip to Denmark because Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen refuses to consider selling Greenland to the United States. Ms. Frederiksen called the idea “absurd.” It might be, but it was also revealing. In seeking to purchase Greenland, Mr. Trump did more than rattle an ally. He demonstrated how little he understands the shape of American power.

Mr. Trump is right that Greenland is valuable. It has vast stores of zinc, copper, iron ore and uranium — all of which are becoming more accessible with global warming. It lies conveniently between North America and Eurasia. But his notion that the way to access this value is to buy it from another country is a throwback to the 19th century. Then, the United States bought or conquered a great deal of land, from the Louisiana Purchase in 1803 to the Philippine annexation in 1899. That pattern of forthright acquisition ended in the middle of the 20th century, though, as colonized people worldwide rebelled against empire and the United States found ways to achieve its ends without large land grabs. [continue reading]

“I Lifted Up Mine Eyes to Ghana”

Keisha N. Blain

On August 27, 1963, W. E. B. Du Bois passed away in Ghana at the age of ninety-five. The famed civil rights leader had relocated to Ghana just two years earlier, but it was only fitting that he should find his final resting place in the West African country, a nation that held deep symbolic significance for black people the world over. Following its independence in March 1957, Ghana had emerged as a symbol of triumph and hope for people of African descent, and over the next decade, thousands of black activists and intellectuals, including Martin Luther King Jr, Maya Angelou, Pauli Murray, and Julian Mayfield, would visit or move to Ghana.

Du Bois’s journey to Ghana can be understood as part of this wave of migration. Yet Du Bois stood out even in this distinguished company — few figures were more influential in shaping anticolonial ideas and movements. Alongside a vanguard of black activists and intellectuals — including C. L. R. James, Marcus Garvey, Jeanne and Paulette Nardal, Claudia Jones, Amy Ashwood Garvey, and George Padmore — Du Bois was one of the chief progenitors of the anticolonial struggle that swept the globe during the twentieth century. Fifty-five years after Du Bois’s passing, it’s worth reflecting on his anticolonial thinking and activism. [continue reading]

The forgotten haven: Kent camp that saved 4,000 German Jews

Harriet Sherwood

It is a near-forgotten chapter in 20th-century history: the rescue of thousands of Jewish men from the Nazis, brought to a camp on the outskirts of the medieval town of Sandwich in Kent as darkness fell across Europe. The Kitchener Camp rescue began in February 1939, and by the time war broke out seven months later about 4,000 men – mainly German and Austrian Jews – had arrived by train and boat. Although the story of the 10,000 Jewish children brought to the UK on the Kindertransport is well known, the Kitchener Camp has received much less attention.

“It’s not even well known in [UK] Jewish communities,” said Clare Weissenberg, who has curated an exhibition that opens at the Jewish Museum in London on 1 September. On 2 September, a blue plaque will be unveiled in Sandwich in the presence of descendants of the rescued men, as well as the son and daughter of two Jewish philanthropist brothers who ran the camp. [continue reading]

Obama-Backed Film Offers a Sobering Take on U.S.-China Rivalry

Shawn Donnan

The trade battles between China and the U.S. are often discussed as sterile policy matters. But every so often a tale like “American Factory,” a documentary that debuted on Netflix this week, serves as a reminder that people and complexities are involved. “American Factory,” the first film backed by Barack and Michelle Obama’s new production company, tells the unvarnished story of a shuttered General Motors plant outside Dayton, Ohio, bought and revived as an auto glass factory by China’s Fuyao Glass.

The film’s political relevance comes from the fact the new factory opened in October 2016, just weeks before Donald Trump was elected wielding a campaign promise to stunt China’s economic rise that has since turned into a trade war convulsing the global economy. But what makes it compelling is that what begins as an optimistic story of revival ends up as a tangled one about a clash of cultures and the powerful and perplexing forces of globalization and automation. [continue reading]

The Cherokee Nation wants a representative in Congress, taking the US government up on a promise it made nearly 200 years ago

Harmeet Kaur

The Cherokee Nation announced Thursday that it intends to appoint a delegate to the US House of Representatives, asserting for the first time a right promised to the tribe in a nearly 200-year-old treaty with the federal government.

It was a historic step for the Oklahoma-based Cherokee Nation and its nearly 370,000 citizens, coming about a week after Chuck Hoskin Jr. was sworn in as principal chief of the tribe. The Cherokee Nation says it’s the largest tribal nation in the US and one of three federally recognized Cherokee tribes. The move raises questions about what that representation in Congress would look like and whether the US will honor an agreement it made almost two centuries ago. Here’s what’s at stake. [continue reading]

Talking Politics Guide to … European Union before the EU

Talking Politics Podcast

We talk to historian Chris Brooke about ideas of a united Europe that long pre-dated the advent of the European Union. Since the eighteenth century philosophers, lawyers, diplomats and revolutionaries have constructed schemes to bring Europe together economically, legally and politically. How do these plans compare with what actually happened? [listen here