From life in the shadow of Cecil Rhodes to digitizing the Nuremberg trials, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.
There was no single moment when I began to sense the long shadow that Cecil John Rhodes has cast over my life, or over the university where I am a professor, or over the ways of seeing the world shared by so many of us still living in the ruins of the British empire. But, looking back, it is clear that long before I arrived at Oxford as a student, long before I helped found the university’s Rhodes Must Fall movement, long before I even left Zimbabwe as a teenager, this man and everything he embodied had shaped the worlds through which I moved.
I could start this story in 1867, when a boy named Erasmus Jacobs found a diamond the size of an acorn on the banks of the Orange river in what is now South Africa, sparking the diamond rush in which Rhodes first made his fortune. Or I could start it a century later, when my grandfather was murdered by security forces in the British colony of Rhodesia. Or I could start it today, when the infamous statue of Rhodes that peers down on to Oxford’s high street may finally be on the verge of being taken down. [continue reading]
Following state elections in 1898, white supremacists moved into the US port of Wilmington, North Carolina, then the largest city in the state. They destroyed black-owned businesses, murdered black residents, and forced the elected local government – a coalition of white and black politicians – to resign en masse.
Historians have described it as the only coup in US history. Its ringleaders took power the same day as the insurrection and swiftly brought in laws to strip voting and civil rights from the state’s black population. They faced no consequences. Wilmington’s story has been thrust into the spotlight after a violent mob assaulted the US Capitol on 6 January, seeking to stop the certification of November’s presidential election result. More than 120 years after its insurrection, the city is still grappling with its violent past. [continue reading]
Fernando Gómez Herrero
Toynbee Prize Foundation
Fernando Gómez Herrero: Could you tell us a bit about your current book project Earth Hunger: Global Integration and the Need for Strangers?
Jeremy Adelman: On the heels of writing my biography of Albert O. Hirschmann, I was thinking through the big themes of the 20th century, and that exploded into this book, which is a history of interdependence—that is when strangers affect each other’s lives, even if they don’t realize it and they never know one another or meet one another. It is a phenomenon that really arises in the middle of the 19th century. It is recognizable in the middle of the 19th century to observers and critics like John Stuart Mill and Karl Marx and many others, but it thickens and deepens by the end of the 19th century. By the First World War, I would say, the world is an enclosed, interdependent survival unit, and people at that point are arguing over what that means: what are our responsibilities, obligations, and burdens when it comes to dealing with strangers? And dealing with strangers not because they have needs, but because we have need for them. It is very important that the thematic is the need for strangers, and not the needs of strangers, which is the traditional way international and cosmopolitan thinking has been framed. [continue reading]
As one of its last acts, the Trump administration has set in motion the transfer of sacred Native American lands to a pair of Anglo-Australian mining conglomerates. The 2,422-acre Arizona parcel called Oak Flat is of enormous significance to the Western Apache and is now on track for destruction by what is slated to be one of the largest copper mining operations in the United States. Steps for the controversial land transfer from the US government, which owns the land, to the miners were completed on Friday morning, when a final environmental assessment was published. The government must soon transfer title to the land.
Native Americans in the area have compared it to historical attacks on their tribes. “What was once gunpowder and disease is now replaced with bureaucratic negligence,” said Wendsler Nosie, founder of activist organization Apache Stronghold and a member of the Apache band descended from Geronimo. “Native people are treated as something invisible or gone. We are not. We don’t want to be pushed around any more.” [continue reading]
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum