This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

A Cathay Pacific Douglas DC-3 flies over Hong Kong harbour in 1983 — the airline was acquired by Swire in 1948 ​ © Swire

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

From fears for Polish Holocaust researchers to Britain’s fascist thread, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Fears for Polish Holocaust research as historians ordered to apologise

Jon Henley

A court has ordered two prominent historians to apologise to an elderly woman who claimed they had defamed her late uncle over his wartime actions, in a case seen as critical to independent Holocaust research in Poland. Prof Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa and Prof Barbara Engelking of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research were accused of defaming Edward Malinowski by suggesting in a book that he gave up Jews to Nazi Germans.

In a civil case condemned by Jewish organisations and historians as an attack on free academic inquiry, the researchers were told to apologise for a passage in Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, a 1,600-page work they co-edited, which the court said “violated Malinowski’s honour” by “providing inaccurate information”. [continue reading]

$1.6 Million Grant Will Support Digitization of Native American Oral Histories

Livia Gershon
Smithsonian Magazine

The Covid-19 pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on Native American communities and, in particular, the Indigenous elders who often act as keepers of historical knowledge. To help keep these stories alive, reports Susan Montoya Bryan for the Associated Press (AP), the New York–based Doris Duke Charitable Foundation is providing more than $1.6 million in grants to digitize and share oral histories collected decades ago.

“We thought now more than ever is it not only important to update and upgrade this collection but also to give it the national visibility that it deserves and then encourage more young people to contribute their stories to keep it moving over the several decades,” Lola Adedokun, the foundation’s program director for child-wellbeing tells the AP. Most of the money will go to seven universities that can use the funds to pay for translation, digitization, transcription and indexing. The Association of Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums (ATALM), which oversees care of the materials across the locations, will also receive $300,000 over two years to coordinate the project, according to a statement. [continue reading]

Hong Kong’s historic businesses face an uncertain future

Leo Lewis, Primrose Riordan, Alice Woodhouse, Nicolle Liu, and Stefania Palma
Financial Times

From the moment that a business traveller lands at Hong Kong International Airport, perhaps on Cathay Pacific flight CX252 from Heathrow, she becomes — by history and by choice — a captive of two companies. Her flight is operated by one, her bags handled by the other. She buys a Starbucks coffee for the train and 20 minutes later strolls across the pedestrian bridges, through a Hongkong Land mall and on towards the Mandarin Oriental hotel. On the way, she grabs paracetamol from Mannings and a Coke from 7-Eleven. Later, she winces at the grating jingle for YUU reward points emanating from a branch of the Wellcome supermarket chain. 

She drops her bags, leaves a shirt at the Vogue laundry and heads for a meeting in the One Island East skyscraper before rushing to lunch at Thai Basil in Pacific Place. She knows she’s running late because, as the cab rounds Victoria Park, she can hear the noonday gun which (wartime excepted) has been fired daily since the 1860s. [continue reading]

Newly released documents shed light on 1983 nuclear war scare with Soviets

Nate Jones and David E. Hoffman
Washington Post

The Soviet Union put fighter-bombers loaded with nuclear bombs on 24-hour alert in East Germany during a NATO nuclear weapons command exercise in November 1983, and the alert included “preparations for the immediate use of nuclear weapons,” according to newly released U.S. intelligence records that confirm a “war scare” during some of the most tense months of the Cold War. It was disclosed previously that the NATO exercise, named Able Archer 83, triggered worries in the Kremlin. But the new documents provide precise details for the first time of the Soviet military response to the NATO exercise, an annual event that practiced a simulated nuclear attack on the forces of the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact.

According to the documents, the heightened Soviet alert was raised in the fighter-bomber divisions of Soviet forces stationed in East Germany. All command posts were ordered to be manned around-the-clock by augmented teams. In tandem, the chief of the Soviet air forces, Marshal Pavel Kutakhov, ordered all units of the Soviet 4th Air Army in Poland to be covered by the alert. [continue reading]

Britain’s Fascist Thread

Episode 1 of 3


Historian Camilla Schofield explores a century of British fascism.

From the formation of the British Fascisti in 1923, through the BUF, the National Front and the BNP, the history of fascism in Britain is, in a sense, an unbroken thread.

But if the politics – or anti-politics – has remained more-or-less consistent, with a lineage of hatreds, pseudo-science, failed leaders and tactics, the means by which fascism is calibrated and communicated in the 21st century has fundamentally changed.

In this first progrtamme in the series we revisit the rally staged by the British Union of Fascists at Olympia in 1934, as an opening onto the character of fascism in the wider inter-war period.


Julie Gottlieb, professor in Modern History at the University of Sheffield and author of Feminine Fascism
Liam Liburd, lecturer at King’s College, London
Martin Pugh. author of Hurrah for the Blackshirts!

[click here to listen]