This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Villagers in fancy dress during a New Year’s​ carnival.. Moldova. Undated (1950s-1970s). Photo by Zaharia Cusnir. Recovered by Victor Galusca in 2016.

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

From remembering India’s first rock band to Ireland coming to terms with its imperial past, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Remembering India’s First Rock Band ‘Mohiner Ghoraguli’

Samiksha Chaudhary

The late ‘60s and ‘70s are oft credited as being the starting point of Indian Rock. For many, the arrival of The Beatles to Rishikesh in 1968 stands as a distinct memory of India’s rite of passage to the world of rock. Still others are convinced that it was the Simla Beat Contest from 1967-1971 that heralded India’s Rock Revolution and started it all. Indian Rock has evolved over the years with channels like MTV and Channel V bringing rock music videos to our homes in the ‘90s. While tracing the evolution of rock in India chronologically might mean limiting what made it what it was, there is one band that is arguably India’s first homegrown rock band – one that brought a largely foreign genre to the shores of India and gave it its own identity.

Back in the ‘70s, when rock music was slowing permeating into Bollywood with composers experimenting with rock sounds and fusing them with more traditional sounds, a band in Kolkata decided to embrace rock in its entirety, taking it away from the realms of ‘filmi gaane’ and breathing a new life into the genre. Late in the ‘70s, Bengali band called Mohiner Ghoraguli were the first to release a rock album that had both elements of personal and social that categorizes the Bob Dylan-esque form of folk rock we know today. Drawing influences from American folk, Jazz, and Bengali Baul and other Bengali folk forms, they oft referred to their music sensibility as ‘Baul Jazz’. While the band only composed and played songs in their vernacular language, Bengali, they embraced rock for what it was – radical, anarchic, novel, and ground-breaking. [continue reading]

History Respawned: Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War

Bob Whitaker, Chris Dietrich, and Joseph Parrott
History Respawned

Bob talks with returning guests Dr. Chris Dietrich and Dr. Joseph Parrott about Call of Duty: Black Ops Cold War. Topics include the Cold War in the 1980s, Operation Fracture Jaw, the game’s depiction of Ronald Reagan, Reagan in popular memory, and the reality of the communist threat in the United States.

*This episode includes minor spoilers for the game’s single player campaign.

A Scandinavian ‘Nabob’ of the British Empire: The Discovery of a New Colonial Archive

Arun Kumar
The Wire

It happens once in a while that a significant archive of a colonial businessmen gets discovered in an attic. The caretakers of a manor house – the Huseby Bruk – in the Småland region of South Sweden discovered boxes full of papers and objects, lying silently in an upper story dark hall. These were the India papers of Mr Joseph Stephens. Stephens, in India, was a railway contractor of one of the earliest railway companies in the colonies: the Great India Peninsular Railway Company (GIPR).

Established in the 1850s, the GIPR built railways and its infrastructure in the emerging global metropolis, Bombay, and the surrounding countryside. British colonial officials’ attempts to penetrate the interiors of Khandesh and Berar region were motivated by the political-economic logic of integrating the region into the colonial economy. [continue reading]

Amos Chapple
Radio Free Europe

In the spring of 2016, film student Victor Galusca was exploring a sleepy village in his native Moldova when the 23-year-old noticed some photographic negatives in the rubble of an abandoned house. The discarded pictures were the life’s work of Zaharia Cusnir, an unknown amateur photographer who died in 1993. The villager had struggled professionally under the communist regime and battled alcoholism, yet he left behind some of the most brilliant portraits of rural life ever captured on film.

For the past three years, with the permission of the photographer’s daughter, who dismissed her father’s work as “garbage,”​ Galusca and his photography teacher have been cleaning and scanning the stunning find, which they released on a website in January. Galusca, who is a freelance contributor to RFE/RL’s Moldovan Service, agreed to share images here showing his discovery of one of the greatest chroniclers of life behind the Iron Curtain. [continue reading]

Ireland has yet to come to terms with its imperial past

Jane Ohlmeyer
Irish Times

In July 2019 Boris Johnson asked why Leo Varadkar isn’t “called Murphy like all the rest of them”. This ethnocentricity has a long history in an Ireland that for centuries was a laboratory for empire, where racist ideologies were formulated and then exported around the rest of the British empire.

As we approach Brexit, Johnson might like to remember that nation states working together in federations like the European Union – and not empires – are the mainstay of our world today. Educated at Balliol College Oxford, the intellectual epicentre of the 19th-century British Empire, on a classical curriculum, Mr Johnson continues to peddle a nostalgia for an England and an empire that no longer exists. What does Mr Johnson’s nostalgia for empire mean for Ireland? How do we understand our own role in the development of empire? [continue reading]