This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Demonstrations against Treuhand, as seen in the documentary. Photograph: Netflix

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

From Germany’s answer to the JFK assassination to Wendell Willkie’s world without borders, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Dangerous but rarely deadly: Fire as protest in modern Ireland

Gemma Clark
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from FORGED BY FIRE: BURNS INJURY AND IDENTITY IN BRITAIN, C.1800-2000

Arson is the criminal act of setting fire to property with the aim to cause damage; yet, whether or not incendiaries also intend to harm people, fires often result in ‘tragedies involving burns and scalds’, as documented by this blog. In November 1991, during the Northern Ireland Troubles, two young arsonists ‘motivated by sectarian hatred’ killed Kathleen Lundy, a Catholic convert through marriage, and her 15-year-old son, Colin, residents of the predominantly Protestant area of Glengormey, near Belfast. (Another son, Gerard, aged 19, was injured.) Mark Whyte, 18, and Richard McKay, 19, claimed at Belfast Crown Court that they believed the family was staying with relatives on the night they ‘poured petrol through the letterbox’ of the Lundy home and ‘set it alight’.[1] In a seemingly-weak defence of a life-threatening act, McKay ‘thumped the dock with his fist and shouted out – “Nobody was meant to die”.’[2] Mr Justice Nicholson ‘had a “slight doubt” as to whether they intended to kill’, sentencing the pair, in February 1993, to concurrent fifteen-year sentences for arson and manslaughter.[3]

As a historian of arson, I explore similarly difficult questions around personal and collective motivations for malicious fire setting, focusing specifically on its function as a tool of protest and intercommunal violence. One of the core and perhaps unexpected findings in my research area, Britain and especially Ireland since c.1800, is that this inherently dangerous strategy has claimed relatively few casualties, especially when compared to modern, sinister usages of fire, such as ethnic cleansing and inter-religious/racial violence, elsewhere in the world.[4] There have been racist and suspected-racist arson attacks in modern Britain; the New Cross house fire, in London, 1981, for example, claimed thirteen young lives and shaped Black British identity.[5] However, the relative scarcity of lethal arson, particularly in the British/Irish protest sphere, is surprising because arguably incendiarism works so effectively – as intimidation and insurgency – precisely because of its lethal potential. Humans learn from a young age ‘that fire can hurt us. It can burn our body and lay waste to our home’;[6] I have found that politically-motivated arsonists historically have traded on this primal fear, of losing everything to the flames, to induce action and compliance with demands. Continue reading “Dangerous but rarely deadly: Fire as protest in modern Ireland”

Decolonising and Black British History: a teaching resource

Laura Sangha
University of Exeter

Cross-posted from The Many-Headed Monster

If you are thinking about decolonising your history module this year, this seminar plan [pdf] might be of use to you. It’s based around ‘Black Lives in Early Modern England’, but with minor tweaking of the reading and primary sources it could be adapted for most modules, whether pre-modern or modern.

John Blanke (detail from 1511 Westminster Tournament Roll).

The seminar aims to introduce students to some key concepts whilst also encouraging them to think about methodology and historiography. It combines synchronous and asynchronous activities, and is equivalent to four hours of synchronous seminar time (it’s designed for my Special Subject which in non-pandemic years is taught by means of 2 x 2 hour seminars a week).

In this post, I want to share some of my recent experiences and which provide some context to where the seminar emerged from. Continue reading “Decolonising and Black British History: a teaching resource”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From using Instagram to teach forgotten histories to when rock fought against racism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Autumn Term @ExeterCIGH Virtual Seminar Schedule

The Autumn Term is now upon us, and so please find the Centre for Imperial and Global History virtual seminar schedule below for your calendars.

Please direct any inquiries about attending to the seminar convenor, Dr Lyubi Spaskovska. 

Date (Term 1)

Speakers 

Paper Title 

23rd September 2020 (Week 1), 15:30h

Nandini Chatterjee (University of Exeter), in conversation with Gajendra Singh (University of Exeter)

Book launch: Negotiating Mughal Law a Family of Landlords Across Three Indian Empires (CUP, 2020)

7th October 2020 (Week 3), 15:30h

Rachel Lin (University of Exeter) &

Iacopo Adda (University of Geneva)

Historical Memory in Sino-Russian Border Museums

21st October 2020 (Week 5), 15:30h

Joint event with Violence

Margot Tudor (University of Manchester) 

Emily Bridger (University of Exeter)

 

Beer, Boxing, and Belly-dancers: Gendering Peacekeepers in Egypt 1956-1967

‘All Township Love-making is Rough’: Rape as a Contested Concept in Apartheid-era Soweto, South Africa

4th November 2020 (Week 7), 15:30h

Crispin Bates (University of Edinburgh)

Policing Intimacy and Queering the History of South Asian Overseas Migration in the Colonial Era

18th November 2020 (Week 9), 15:30h

Beth Rebisz (University of Reading) 

Gavin Davies (University of Exeter)

Gendered Geographies of State Coercion in the Late-Colonial Period: Kenya, 1954-1960

‘The Eye’s Great Feast’: Food and Civility in William Darton Jr’s Games of Travelling in Asia and Europe

2nd December 2020 (Week 11), 15:30h

Nicholas Grant (University of East Anglia)

Task Force Africa: The NAACP and Black Internationalism in the 1970s

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

“Slave Ship (Slavers Throwing Overboard the Dead and Dying, Typhoon Coming On)” by J. M. W. Turner, 1840

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

From how not to be an alien to the microdynamics of late colonial violence, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From revisiting grand theories of history to topics you’re not supposed to discuss at dinner, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta

Richard Toye

Cross-posted from History Matters

On 23 February 1945 Churchill invited all ministers outside the War Cabinet to his room at the House of Commons to hear his account of the Yalta conference and the one at Malta that had preceded it. The Labour minister Hugh Dalton recorded in his diary that “The PM spoke very warmly of Stalin. He was sure […] that as long as Stalin lasted, Anglo-Russian friendship could be maintained.” Churchill added: “Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust with Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about Stalin.”[1]

Just five days later, however, Churchill’s trusted private secretary John Colville noted the arrival of:

“sinister telegrams from Roumania showing that the Russians are intimidating the King and Government […] with all the techniques familiar to students of the Comintern. […] When the PM came back [from dining at Buckingham Palace] […] he said he feared he could do nothing. Russia had let us go our way in Greece; she would insist on imposing her will in Roumania and Bulgaria. But as regards Poland we would have our say. As we went to bed, after 2.00 a.m. the PM said to me, ‘I have not the slightest intention of being cheated over Poland, not even if we go to the verge of war with Russia.”[2]

At an initial glance, there seems to be a powerful contradiction between these different sets of remarks. In the first, Churchill appears remarkably naïve and foolish, putting his faith in his personal relationship with a man whom he knew to be a mass murderer. In the second he seems strikingly, even recklessly bellicose, contemplating a new war with the Soviets, his present allies, even before the Germans and the Japanese had been defeated.

Surprising though it may seem, the disjuncture is not as large as it appears on the surface. Relations with the USSR and the future of Poland were not the only things that were at stake at Yalta. The Big Three took important decisions regarding the proposed United Nations Organization, and the post-war treatment of Germany, and even Anglo-US relations were not uncomplicated. In this post, however, I want to focus on the Polish issue and the broader question of how Churchill viewed the Soviet Union and its place in international relations more generally. I will outline three key assumptions that governed Churchill’s approach and which explain the apparent discrepancies in his remarks upon his return. Continue reading “‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta”