Lori Lee Oates (@drlorileeoates)
Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador
In 2019, I had the opportunity to participate in public scholarship collaborations with political scientists, geographers, and community activists on the climate crisis. This led to lecturing to graduate students on the climate emergency and writing guest essays on the topic for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). The criticism from climate change deniers was swift and fierce but not unexpected. It was usually some variation of “What does a humanities scholar or historian know about climate change?” or “These are issues best left to business schools and engineering departments.” The response forced me to grapple with the question: what is the role of global and imperial history in providing commentary on the climate crisis?
The question hits particularly close to home for me; Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador, where I teach in the Master of Philosophy (Humanities) program, is located in one of Canada’s petro provinces. The economy has always been heavily dependent on natural resource sectors and very much dependent on oil since 1997. The one economic golden age the province experienced was fostered by high oil prices. The province has also had a troubled imperial history as it went from being the home of the lost Indigenous people known as the Beothuk, to becoming European fishing grounds, used by imperial powers for its vast natural resources, then to a British colony, to Commonwealth dominion, back to commission of government, all before joining Canada as its tenth province in 1949.
The legacy of imperialism on Newfoundland’s resource-dependent economy was explored back in the mid ‘90s by Valerie Summers in Regime Change in a Resource Economy: The Politics of Underdevelopment in Newfoundland since 1825 (1994). In the intervening decades, Newfoundland and Labrador’s approach to economic development continues to be rooted in imperial ways of thinking, which arguably prevent its development as the global economy has moved away from localized natural resources sectors, and towards globalized service sectors. Political economists have effectively documented the phenomenon known as “the resource curse”. Overdependence on natural resources, or a single resource, are problems that afflict many former colonies, that have historically been used as a source for the extraction for their resources. This overdependence, then, is an imperial legacy.Continue reading “Addressing the Contemporary Climate Crisis by Decolonizing Environmental History”
From the nationalist politics of film dubbing to the Summer of Soul, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
Anne L. Foster (Indiana State University) and Petra Goedde (Temple University)
Editors, Diplomatic History
Covid-19 has laid bare the tension between globalism and nationalism, the promise and limits of modern medicine, the persistence of inequality, legacies of imperialism and racism. We have witnessed human beings adapt with remarkable resilience, but also the toll the took on families and individuals beyond the threat of death and disease: isolation, job loss, financial insecurity, uncertainty.
As university teachers and mothers, we scrambled in the spring of 2020 to adjust our living and teaching. As foreign relations scholars and journal editors we were thinking about what all this meant for our work. And so we invited a group of scholars to reflect on this question: What has living through this pandemic revealed or changed about your conception of your scholarship?
We are happy to announce that the twenty-three short essays they wrote have just been published in the June 2021 issue of Diplomatic History, all of which are currently free to read and download online.Continue reading “How Has the Pandemic Reshaped U.S. Foreign Relations Histories?”
From the long history of US-Haitian relations to Japan’s Indian connection, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
Professor Richard Toye (@RichardToye) of the Centre for Imperial and Global History interviews Professor Jürgen Zimmerer (@juergenzimmerer) of the University of Hamburg on the theme of contested German colonial history.
RT: You recently gave a fascinating interview on the theme of repressed/suppressed memories of German colonialism. One point you made is that because Germany had had its colonies taken away after World War I, it did not go through the same post-1945 decolonization process as other European countries; rather at that point it had to deal with the legacy of the Nazi era. But in spite of that – looking at the reactions to your interview on Twitter – it seems that in terms of current debates the UK and Germany, at least, have certain things in common. When you draw attention to German colonial crimes, some Germans say, in effect, “But why do you insist on dragging this up? After all, other empires were much worse than ours.” Something similar happens in Britain – usually people suggest that the French or the Belgians were worse than we were. Why do you think this “whataboutery” or “whataboutism” is so prevalent?
JZ: Your observation is correct. My references to the first decades after World War II were meant to explain why what I call “colonial amnesia” could take place. By that I mean the marginalisation or nostalgic idealization of German colonialism in public perception. For the post-war generation the “colonial” question was a British or French one, etc. not a German one. On the one hand, Germany had “lost” its formal colonies already in 1919 and, on the other hand, after 1945 the memory of World War II and the Third Reich took centre stage. Interestingly, what was discussed was neither the Holocaust, which became a matter of broad debate only in the 1980s, nor the German war crimes in the war of annihilation, which led to huge debates in the 1990s, but rather German suffering from the war and German resistance to Hitler.
Already at that time you could find references to the colonial crimes of others, particularly of the victorious powers, what you so poignantly called whataboutery. It was meant to deflect from German guilt and was used as an argument that the enforced De-Nazification was unjust, and that only Germans were being forced to undergo such a humiliating experience. Later on the argument was slightly modified. Now it read: We take responsibility for the Holocaust, and this is enough. We don’t engage with colonialism, like the German genocide of the Herero and Nama people, because we already deal with the Holocaust, and now the others should deal with colonialism first. Now Germany was the role model of coming to terms with the past, attempting to gain the moral high ground.
RT: This is very interesting. In the UK, perhaps it is the other way round. “We stood alone against Hitler in 1940; this is our trump card against all criticism.” However, there is some acknowledgement that some aspects of the British Empire were at least mildly problematic. People argue, however, that taking everything in the round these aspects were eclipsed by benefits, most usually the railways … In Germany, do people try to do the same thing, in other words to claim that although there were some downsides, the German Empire was beneficial to the colonised?Continue reading “German Colonialism, Suppressed Memories: A CIGH Interview with Jürgen Zimmerer”