This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

“Hare Indian Dog” by John Woodhouse Audubon, from The Viviparous Quadrupeds of North America (1845-1848). (Whitney Western Art Museum 14.88.2, Buffalo Bill Center of the West, Cody, Wyo.)

From Mexico’s lead role in the NIEO to Mexico’s nuclear arms control leadership, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

The NIEO as Cautionary Tale

Christy Thornton
Progressive International

In April of 1972, the Mexican president came before an international audience to call for a radical reorientation of the global economy in which his country was embedded. Luis Echeverría used his speech at the 1972 UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) in Santiago, Chile to enumerate the principles that would anchor a new Charter of Economic Rights and Duties of States: “freedom to dispose of natural resources; the right of every nation to adopt the economic structure it considered most suitable and to treat private property as the public interest required; renunciation of the use of economic pressures; subjection of foreign capital to domestic laws; prohibition of interference by supranational corporations in the internal affairs of States; abolition of trade practices that discriminated against the exports of non-industrial nations; economic advantages proportionate to levels of development; treaties guaranteeing stable and fair prices for basic products; transfer of technology; and greater economic resources for long-term, untied aid.”

This was a remarkably comprehensive vision for a fairer world economy, one that would limit the privileges of multinational corporations, redistribute resources from North to South, and level the playing field regarding trade and investment. The proposal provided the basis for what would go on, over complicated negotiations during the next two years, to constitute the demand for a New International Economic Order (NIEO). The Charter was, undoubtedly, a consummate Third Worldist vision—but it was promulgated by a leader already infamous for his violent repression at home, the intellectual architect of multiple student massacres in Mexico City and a brutal Dirty War in the Mexican countryside. How, then, should we remember this moment, and what lessons can we draw from it? [continue reading]

‘A search for ourselves’: shipwreck becomes focus of slavery debate

Sam Jones

n 2015, a delegation from the Smithsonian Institution travelled to Mozambique to inform the Makua people of a singular and long-overdue discovery. Two hundred and twenty-one years after it sank in treacherous waters off Cape Town, claiming the lives of 212 enslaved people, the wreck of the Portuguese slave ship the São José Paquete D’Africa had been found. When told the news, a Makua leader responded with a gesture that no one on the delegation will ever forget. “One of the chiefs took a vessel we had, filled it with soil and asked us to bring that vessel back to the site of the slave ship so that, for the first time since the 18th century, his people could sleep in their own land,” says Lonnie Bunch, now the secretary of the Smithsonian.

For Bunch and his colleagues, the importance of the find cannot be overstated. Although the São José – which was bound for Brazil – is the first ship to be recovered that is known to have sunk while transporting enslaved people, it was just one of the tens of thousands that plied their trade over the four centuries of the transatlantic slave trade, during which more than 12 million African men, women and children were enslaved. [continue reading]

Bones of ancient native dogs found at Jamestown

Michael E. Ruane
Washington Post

They were dogs that howled but didn’t bark. They resembled foxes, or wolves. And they had been the companions of Native Americans for thousands of years, after their ancestors arrived with early migrants from Asia. Now, DNA that appears to be from descendants of these long-vanished canines has turned up at the Jamestown colonial site in Virginia, where starving settlers may have eaten them, experts at Jamestown and the University of Iowa said this month.

It is the first proof that indigenous dogs were at Jamestown, and is a link to the bones of more than 100 that were found at a Native American site nearby in the 1970s and ’80s. “It is really exciting,” said Leah Stricker, curator at Preservation Virginia’s Jamestown Rediscovery project. [continue reading]

America’s Biggest Museums Fail to Return Native American Human Remains

Logan Jaffe, Mary Hudetz, Ash Ngu, and Graham Lee Brewer

As the United States pushed Native Americans from their lands to make way for westward expansion throughout the 1800s, museums and the federal government encouraged the looting of Indigenous remains, funerary objects and cultural items. Many of the institutions continue to hold these today — and in some cases resist their return despite the 1990 passage of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. “We never ceded or relinquished our dead. They were stolen,” James Riding In, then an Arizona State University professor who is Pawnee, said of the unreturned remains.

ProPublica this year is investigating the failure of NAGPRA to bring about the expeditious return of human remains by federally funded universities and museums. Our reporting, in partnership with NBC News, has found that a small group of institutions and government bodies has played an outsized role in the law’s failure. [continue reading]

Mexican Leadership in Addressing Nuclear Risks, 1962-1968

J. Luis Rodriguez
Sources and Methods

Since the late 1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union attempted to build constraints on nuclear arsenals to prevent catastrophes. The prospects of nuclear Armageddon during the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 gave their efforts a renewed urgency. As the international community joined the Cold War superpowers in their quest to build political tools to guarantee security from nuclear weapons, Mexican policymakers proved crucial in findings ways to address nuclear perils in Latin America as well as internationally.

The nuclear order-building efforts depended on US hegemony and relied on nuclear powers’ cooperation. The United States and the Soviet Union brought countries from the North American Treaty Organization and the Warsaw Pact to draft a nuclear nonproliferation treaty. After this group of ten governments could not reach a consensus, US and Soviet leaders formed the Eighteen Nation Committee on Disarmament (ENCD) by inviting four neutral and four non-aligned nations to the negotiating table. Mexico was one of the neutral countries invited to this Committee. [continue reading]