This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Black lives matter protesters in the Leeds City Centre (Shutterstock), Leeds UK, 14 June 2020

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

From the sovereign individual in Downing Street to Queen Elizabeth, colonization, and global perceptions, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

The sovereign individual in Downing Street

Quinn Slobodian
New Statesman

Though he is the first Hindu prime minister by faith, Rishi Sunak is a spiritual child of Silicon Valley. By his own account, his time there “changed [his] life”, “living and breathing that entrepreneurial culture”. He described his approach to being chancellor of the Exchequer as a “start-up Treasury mentality”. Some have described him as the “first Californian prime minister”.

Sunak had to travel some distance to arrive at his tech-bro futurist Mecca, but he grew up at the right time for it to happen. Born in Southampton in 1980, he attended Stroud and Winchester schools then went to Lincoln College, Oxford to study philosophy, politics and economics (PPE) as the dot-com boom was cresting. After Oxford, he did a stint at Goldman Sachs before moving to Palo Alto around the same time as Mark Zuckerberg. At Stanford University, he had his greatest stroke of fortune meeting Akshata Murty, daughter of Indian tech billionaire NR Narayana Murthy, and later marrying her. After finishing his MBA in 2006, Sunak returned to the UK and worked for two hedge funds before entering politics as the MP for Richmond, Yorkshire, in 2015. [continue reading]

Edinburgh says sorry for city’s role in slavery and colonialism

BBC News

The Lord Provost said: “As civic leader of the city and convener of the council, I apologise to all those who suffered profound physical and mental abuse from the city’s past involvement in colonialism and slavery.

“It is impossible to look out from this building across the city and not see how the landscape of the city was shaped by the wealth generated from colonialism and slavery. “The effects of colonialism and slavery are deeply embedded in the fabric of our city, in the buildings, in the institutions and even in the way that Edinburgh is laid out. “We cannot deny the benefits that the city has accrued over the years from the exploitation of others and in particular the continent and peoples of Africa.” [continue reading]

Early Anti-Imperialist Feminisms

Maya Caspari
Forms, Voices, Networks: Feminism & the Media

In a 1906 speech, ‘The Education of Indian women’, the Indian writer and political activist Sarojini Naidu connected women’s rights activism to the struggle for freedom from colonial rule. Describing India as a motherland, she extolled the virtues of maternal power as a means of advocating for women’s education and their role in building an independent nation-state. Educated at King’s College London and the University of Cambridge, Naidu was a key figure in the women’s movement in Britain and India. Over the years, she would also go on to play a major role in the fight for Indian independence, working closely with Mahatma Gandhi.

A year later in 1907, at the second International Socialist Conference in Stuttgart, Germany, the pro-independence activist Bhikaiji Cama raised an Indian national flag which she had co-designed with Vinayak Damodar Savarkar. Banned from India due to her pro-independence activities, Cama—also known as Madam Cama—lived in exile in Paris and smuggled her publications into India. [continue reading]

Queen Elizabeth, Colonization, and Global Perceptions

Mickell Carter
Black Perspectives

The news of the passion of Britain’s longest reigning monarch, Queen Elizabeth II, on September 8th sparked mixed feelings in millions worldwide. Some Black people commented on her passing while expressing their condolences and honoring the legacy of the crown. For instance, Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari highly praised the British monarchy as he stated, “We have maintained very close ties with the monarchy. She was a very gracious and elegant queen.” Many others, however, took her passing as an opportunity to critique the violent colonial legacy of the British crown.  Nigerian American  professor Uju Anya took to social media to convey abhorrence and feelings of disgust toward the Queen with comments such as “I only wish my hatred had the effect on her that her monarchy had on my people.” Black people’s ambivalent feelings towards the British monarchy are not new.

Queen Elizabeth’s death only reignited diasporic conversations about the role the British monarchy played in the unjust treatment toward millions of Black people. For instance, in 1965, amid the U.S. civil rights movement, African American journalist Charles L. Sanders traveled to Britain to gain insight into racial issues and connections between African Americans and Black Britons. Sanders quickly realized that like in the U.S., Britain also suffered from racial discrimination and segregation. During Sanders’ visit, he spoke with two Jamaican men who provided deeper understandings of Black experiences in and perceptions of Britain. [continue reading]