This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

In Fusagasugá, the mural “The Embrace of Truth” memorializes those killed during the conflict. (Source: Colombia Truth Commission)

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

From Putin the reactionary imperialist to exaggerating the death of neoliberalism, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Ukraine invasion suggests Putin is more Vladimir the Reactionary than Peter the Great

Olivia Durand

Vladimir Putin’s recent evocation of the military successes of 18th-century tsar Peter the Great against Sweden is just the latest example of his distinctive cherry-picking of imperial predecessors, Soviet rulers and religious icons to justify his invasion of Ukraine. It’s all part of the imperial nostalgia that the Russian president has enthusiastically embraced since the mid-2000s. In a meeting with young entrepreneurs, engineers and scientists in St Petersburg in early June, Putin recalled Peter the Great waging the Great Northern War for 21 years. “On the face of it, he was at war with Sweden taking something away from it,” he said. “He was not taking away anything – he was returning. Clearly, it fell to our lot to return and reinforce as well.”

This imperial nationalism stems from a nationalist rhetoric that emerged after the breakup of the USSR in 1991, focusing on land losses and lamenting the separation of communities by new political borders. Increasingly, the tsarist past has provided a readily available reference framework to praise absolutist rule and defend aggressive foreign policy. [continue reading]

Is the Neoliberal Era Over Yet?

Ed Burmila
New Republic

If you ever find yourself in the unusual circumstance of needing to start a fight among scholars of American politics, ask them when the New Deal era ended. In the ensuing chaos of competing dates, one thing will stand out: Nobody claims it is still ongoing. Despite a clear lack of consensus on when it ended, we all know it’s over. Only with the perspective afforded by time can we try to pinpoint when.

Does the “when” matter? Arguably it does not; declaring the moment when a particular political order died is the kind of thing that only interests academics. For other purposes, it can be extremely enlightening simply to tease out the significance of the change, the what and why if not the when. That’s the spirit to bring to Gary Gerstle’s The Rise and Fall of the Neoliberal Order, which makes the ambitious assertion that the 2020 Covid pandemic signaled the death knell of neoliberalism as the defining political-economic framework of our world. If he’s right, the significance of such a shift can’t be understated. [continue reading]

“There is Future if There is Truth”: Colombia’s Truth Commission Launches Final Report

Michael Evans
National Security Archive

Bogotá, 28 June 2022 – Today, Colombia’s Truth Commission wraps up three-and-a-half years of work with the launch of its report on the causes and consequences of Colombia’s conflict. The publication of the Commission’s findings and recommendations is an important step forward in guaranteeing the rights of victims and of Colombian society to know the truth about what happened, to build a foundation for coexistence among Colombians, and to ensure that such a conflict is never repeated.

The Commission for Clarification of the Truth, Coexistence and Non-Repetition (CEV) was established as a direct result of the 2016 peace accords reached between the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), the country’s largest rebel group.[continue reading]

Getty opens access to 30,000 images of black diaspora in UK and US

Aina J Khan

A collection of almost 30,000 rarely seen images of the black diaspora in the UK and the US, dating from the 19th century to the present, has been launched as part of an educational initiative to raise awareness of the history of black people in the UK. The Black History & Culture Collection includes more than 20 categories of images including politics, hair, education, female empowerment and LGBTQ+.

It begins with images from the 1800s, including a portrait of two South African children – Albert Jonas and John Xiniwe of the African Choir – erupting with laughter in 1891. Photos of abolitionist and civil rights figures, the Notting Hill carnival in the 1980s and the Black Lives Matter protests of recent years are also included. [continue reading]

The Death of Neoliberalism Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

Philip Mirowski

It is unnerving to realize we live in an era when everyone seems to be relieved that the COVID-19 pandemic is done and dusted when, in fact, all that is really over are the concerted public health measures to control its spread and propagation. “Wishing makes it so” is hardly a sound policy upon which to build political movements, yet that threatens to be the default stance toward most of the current crises we face, be it global warming, loss of biodiversity, Trumpism, economic inequality, the pandemic, or even the war in Ukraine.

One instance of such “termination fascination” that seems glaringly apparent on the Left is the widespread conviction that somehow the era of neoliberalism is likewise past, or at least on its way out. One can’t help but suspect that this particular hankering for a terminus is a consequence of feelings of helplessness combined with the tiresome refrain that neoliberalism can’t be satisfactorily defined. To clarify the debate, we first need to discuss the different ways in which people on the Left have used the term “neoliberal.” [continue reading]