This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From how Japanese Canadians survived internment to when Africa was a German laboratory, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

On Trade Books and Global History

Map of Constantinople (Istanbul), the capital of the Byzantine and the Ottoman empires. Printed in 1572 by Braun and Hogenberg in Civitates Orbis Terrarum. nicoolay/Getty Images

In this blog post Professor Maria Fusaro responds to some questions put to her by Professor Richard Toye about trade books and global history.

RT: In the many discussions that are currently going on around ‘decolonising’, one thing I’ve not seen addressed is the role of the publishing industry. Whatever happens in universities, publishers have a big influence on how history is discussed in the public sphere. Are there particular pitfalls surrounding trade publishing (as opposed to academic publishing), do you think?

MF: What a good question! Or I should probably say ‘questions’, as you raise more than one point as ‘trade books’ are an important phenomenon within the Anglosphere.

The first question you raise is about relationship between ‘academic’ and ‘trade’ publishing, and their different (divergent?) goals. Directly descending from this is a separate issue, namely how this affects efforts at decolonising the curriculum. And connected to both is how ‘trade’ and academic publishing need to interact.

Professional historians tend to be based in universities, and their scientific reputations are built through their production of academic essays and volumes. Once upon a time, there was an organic development between academic and trade books. One started to publish within the academic world, built his (I was going to write ‘her’ and then realised they were all men) scientific reputation and then, towards the end of his career or in retirement wrote for the general public. As a phenomenon peculiar to the Anglosphere, there was also the non professional historian, who eschewed the academic path and wrote ‘histories’ for the educated public, the latter type were (and are) usually very gifted writers.

These two publishing paths now run instead mostly in parallel, and historians frequently write both academic and trade books, which is great news for the profession, but also potentially dangerous. This is due to the growing schizophrenia between the type of books published by academic presses, and the growth of trade books with a ‘global’ subject, usually sensationalizing individuals or goods – single years are also in vogue. Continue reading “On Trade Books and Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Black Lives Matter demonstration in London on July 8, 2016 (Photo: Alisdare Hickson, Flickr).

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From the transnational roots of Black History Month in Britain to how bad medieval history feeds far-right fantasies, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

The Human Rights Dictatorship – An Interview with Ned Richardson-Little

Ned Richardson-Little. The Human Rights Dictatorship: Socialism, Global Solidarity and Revolution in East Germany. New York and Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2020. £22.99 Paperback

Interviewed by Marc-William Palen

Ned Richardson-Little’s The Human Rights Dictatorship recovers the history of human rights within the German Democratic Republic (GDR). In doing so, he provocatively reinterprets the Cold War, the evolution of human rights in the Eastern Bloc, and the revolutions of 1989. The book provocatively shows how “human rights” had multiple meanings depending upon which side of the Cold War – and the Berlin Wall – you found yourself. Richardson-Little’s tracing of how the meaning of human rights evolved in the decades after the Second World War illuminates a global battleground of ideas that continued to be fought in Eastern Europe long after the tearing down of the Berlin Wall.

Dr Richardson-Little is a Freigeist Fellow at the University of Erfurt, Germany, where he leads a project on international crime and globalization. Before this, he was a postdoctoral fellow in the 1989 after 1989 research group (2014-18). He received the Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize from the German Historical Institute (Washington) and a commendation from the Fraenkel Prize committee at the Wiener Library. Academic publications include numerous chapters and journal articles, and the editing of a special issue of East Central Europe.  He has also written for the Imperial & Global Forum, and hosts a blog, History Ned. You can follow him on Twitter @HistoryNed.

How would you briefly summarize your book? Give us your “elevator pitch,” if you will.

The idea of human rights was crucial to the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of state socialism in East Germany, but before that, it had also been a core part of communist ideology used to legitimize dictatorship. The ruling Socialist Unity Party (SED) came to see itself and the German Democratic Republic as a champion of human rights, both at home and around the world. The party even created a socialist version of Amnesty International to campaign on behalf of victims of human rights violations in West Germany and beyond. For dissident activists, creating a human rights movement wasn’t a matter of being inspired by the West, but reclaiming the idea of human rights from the state by demanding democracy and pluralism from within. The SED was able to use human rights politics to sustain power for decades, but once dissident groups succeeded in wresting it from the party, this accelerated the process of collapse leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. Continue reading “The Human Rights Dictatorship – An Interview with Ned Richardson-Little”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Castro in Harlem
Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, left, and Cuban President Fidel Castro, center, are seen outside the Hotel Theresa in the Harlem neighborhood of New York. (Associated Press)

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter

From the African who transformed Anglo-Saxon England to the anti-colonial repatriation of museum artifacts, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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