This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Women workers demonstrating in St Petersburg, Russia on International Women’s Day 1917.

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

From the socialist origins of International Women’s Day to Hong Kong in the neoliberal imagination, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Recovering the Socialist Free-Trade Tradition

Figure 1: Front and back of the cover of the Jan. 1919 issue of the US Communist magazine the Liberator.

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

[The following has been adapted from Marc-William Palen, “Marx and Manchester: The Evolution of the Socialist Internationalist Free-Trade Tradition, c1846-1946,” International History Review 43 (March 2021): 381-398.]

Free trade, or Freihandel, was a hot-button issue at the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) Congress held in Stuttgart in 1898, most notably because of the policy’s numerous advocates. SPD leader Karl Kautsky kicked things off with a resolution denouncing protectionism for counteracting ‘international solidarity.’ Luise Zietz, a German feminist and head of the SPD women’s movement, seconded Kautsky’s call: ‘We have to adopt a principled stance, and that is in favor of free trade and against protective tariffs.’ August Bebel, SPD chairman and longtime pacifist, followed up on Kautsky and Zietz’s free-trade endorsements, and the congress adopted a qualified resolution along these lines. Free trade would receive an even stronger SPD endorsement in 1900 because ‘free international exchange is . . . before all, a working-class question,’ German Marxist revisionist Eduard Bernstein explained in a subsequent letter to London’s 1908 International Free Trade Congress.[1] Their efforts were part of a rich socialist free-trade tradition that began germinating when Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx migrated to Britain in the 1840s, just as the island-nation was embracing free trade as both policy and ideology. The same British free-trade embrace was also giving rise at this time to the Manchester School (Manchester liberalism, Cobdenism), an economic ideology that tied international trade liberalization together with cheap food, democratization, anti-imperialism, and peace – a cosmopolitan concoction that socialist internationalists increasingly imbibed by the turn of the century.[2]

Recovering the free-trade dimensions of socialist internationalism, and the pacific influence of Britain’s Manchester School upon it, upends the commonly held assumption that socialists the world over have supported nationalism and protectionism amid their collectivist opposition to free-market capitalism.[3] Doing so also provides a much-needed prehistory to the growing body of literature on ‘socialist globalization’. This scholarship has focused primarily on socialist attempts to deepen regional and global interdependence through market integration and supranational governance amid the Manichean ideological divide of the Cold War.[4]  By contrast, earlier attempts have received far less attention, and the role of free trade within the socialist internationalist tradition less still. As a partial corrective, this article traces the evolution of socialist internationalist support for free trade across the century before the Cold War, wherein the cosmopolitan subscription to free trade increasingly made strange bedfellows among those capitalists and socialists seeking a more interdependent and peaceful world order. Continue reading “Recovering the Socialist Free-Trade Tradition”

CFP: State-Led Inquiries as Political Devices: Lessons Learned and Lost from British Interventions, 1853 to the Present Day

“The Iraq Inquiry, London” by chrisjohnbeckett is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

9th September 2021

We invite proposals for an interdisciplinary one-day virtual workshop hosted by the Centre for Histories of Violence and Conflict (CHVC) and the Leverhulme-funded Warnings from the Archive project at the University of Exeter. This workshop reflects a renewed interest in research into processes and politics of truth-telling and lesson-learning in the wake of state-sponsored violence, intervention, and transgression. The focus of the workshop will be on the political conditions and cultural norms that determine the composition and scope of inquiries and lesson-learning. Rather than treating inquiries as objective vessels of knowledge, we approach them as political devices. Our interests are in how contingent processes of investigation shape elite and popular understandings of the history and character of British military operations from the Crimean War to the present day.

The outcome of this workshop will be a special issue with a top-tier interdisciplinary journal for History, Politics and International Relations with a target publication date of 2023. Continue reading “CFP: State-Led Inquiries as Political Devices: Lessons Learned and Lost from British Interventions, 1853 to the Present Day”

Book Launch event for The Munich Crisis, Politics and the People (March 11)

“The People in Times of Crisis: Past and Present: Book Launch event for The Munich Crisis, Politics and the People”

About this Event

Convened by Prof. Julie Gottlieb (University of Sheffield), Prof. Daniel Hucker (University of Nottingham) and Prof. Richard Toye (Exeter University), and chaired by Prof. Gaynor Johnson (University of Kent)

Please join us for this event when we will launch our new collaborative book The Munich Crisis, Politics and the People. The authors came together for a conference in 2018, the 80th anniversary of the signing of the highly controversial but pivotal Munich Agreement, a diplomatic event that was all-absorbing for people throughout Europe and beyond. The days, weeks, and months when the world was on the brink of another global conflict war were days of acute crisis, uncertainty, anxiety, and private and public suspense and nervousness. At this event we will come together to reflect on the Munich Crisis in light of the current global crisis, hearing unmistakable resonances, drawing some parallels, as well as thinking about how the ‘People’s Crisis’ of 1938 differed in important ways from the all-consuming global pandemic today.

This event will be chaired by Prof. Gaynor Johnson, with short presentations by the editors, and Q&A with the contributors.

Date And Time

Thu, 11 March 2021

17:00 – 18:30 GMT

Click here to register

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Rufus Estes’s 1911 cookbook, included in Sokoh’s digital library on West African food heritage. PUBLIC DOMAIN

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

From a pandemic of human rights abuses to socialist revolution without class struggle, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

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. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

The Statue of Peace in front of the former Japanese Embassy in Seoul, South Korea commemorates comfort women, sex slaves taken by the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. The slogans on the tarp behind the statue demand the Japanese government to make reparations. By Simon J. Levien

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

From how empire shaped Ireland’s past and present to rethinking the idea of US national security, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

H-Diplo Roundtable on Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017

H-Diplo Roundtable XXII-22

Simon Reid-Henry.  Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017.  New York: Simon and Schuster, 2019.  ISBN:  9781451684964 (hardcover, $35.00); 9781451684971 (paperback, $20.00).

Cross-posted from H-Diplo: 25 January 2021 | https://hdiplo.org/to/RT22-22

Editor:  Diane Labrosse | Production Editor: George Fujii

Contents

Introduction by Mary Nolan, New York University, Emerita

Review by T.G. Otte, University of East Anglia

Review by Marc-William Palen, University of Exeter

Review by Michelle D. Paranzino, US Naval War College

Review by John A. Thompson, University of Cambridge

Response by Simon Reid-Henry, Queen Mary University of London

 

Introduction by Mary Nolan, New York University, Emerita

Simon Reid-Henry’s Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017 offers a sweeping narrative of the transformation of democracy and of political economy that has unfolded in Europe and North America over the past fifty years.  The title is taken from Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America,[1] but while Reid-Henry shares Tocqueville’s admiration for democracy, or some forms thereof, he does not share his optimism about democracy’s progressive unfolding.  Indeed, according to T.G. Otte, Reid-Henry has written “a sort of negative Whig history of our times.”  In rich detail, Reid-Henry traces the multiple reinventions of democracy and imperial political economy.  He explores how we arrived at a situation where most western democracies now suffer from a crisis of institutional capacity and moral legitimacy, where executive power has grown enormously, experts and technocrats rule, and populations are skeptical and increasingly populist, where neoliberal capitalism has replaced social democracy and faith in social progress has dwindled.

Unlike some who date the origins of current crisis to the Great Recession of 2007-2008 or to the unintended outcomes of the collapse of Communism in 1989, Reid-Henry joins a growing body of scholars who see the 1970s as the key decade of regime change and neoliberal ascendency.  He begins his analysis in that troubled decade, then shifts to 1989 and its dramatic economic and political impacts and concludes with the dual crises of the early twenty-first century, 9/11 and the Great Recession of 2007-2008.  To each of these he devotes nearly 200 pages.  In each he reconstructs “a history of the political life of the western democracies,” (11) but also and often more so a history of political economy, of the changing forms and functioning of Euro American capitalism—or capitalisms.  He attends equally to the ideas and ideologies that promoted neoliberalism and globalization and to the social changes and movements that both pushed changes in politics and the economy and responded to them.

Part 1, “Democracy Unbound” explores the multiple crises that began in the troubled years between 1968 and 1971 and led to the undermining of postwar prosperity and social policies and the destruction of the financial architecture of the Bretton Woods system. New criticisms of democracy emerged from the left and later from a new more radical right.  Keynesianism and the social democratic compromise were replaced by neoliberal ideas and institutions that valued the market over the state, freedom over equality, and the individual over class.  Financialization, deindustrialization, and globalization, which were supported enthusiastically by the right and tolerated by social democrats, reconfigured national economies and their global interconnections.  This story of unravelling and reconfiguring is told with attention to transnational similarities and national particularities.  It focuses on new economic ideologies, institutions and practices, on the shifting balance of power within democratic states that benefitted the executive and judiciary.  Social Democracy was on the defensive, the working class was losing ground steadily, and new forms of right-wing activism took center stage.  Europe and America had been remade, even before 1989.

Part 2, “Novus Ordo Seclorum?” for which 1989 serves as starting point, examines the less crisis- ridden but deeply transformative 1990s.  It was not the end of history, as Francis Fukuyama had predicted.[2] Globalization and financialization continued to dominate capitalism in the West, as Democratic, Social Democratic and Labour parties all came to embrace a neoliberal Third Way, even as that was costing them popular support.  Former Communist central and eastern Europe transitioned to neoliberal capitalism via disruptive shock therapy; creating viable democracies proved more difficult, and nations in the West were evolving in less democratic ways.  Power was increasingly in the hands of markets and corporations, rather than voters or labor.  Good governance and efficiency became the new watchwords of politicians as they attacked welfare states and promoted this model of democracy abroad.  Left-wing parties saw their base shrink and new forms of right-wing mobilization from Jean-Marie Le Pen, head of France’s National Front and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to U. S. Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich and his Contract with America emerged prominently.  Reid-Henry argues that the “reigning liberal democratic order had been transposed from a system of public demand management, orchestrated through the institutions of mass democracy, to one of private consumption management, orchestrated through the market” (449).

Part 3, rather puzzlingly entitled “Victory without Peace” centers on the complex crises set in motion by 9/11 and the 2007-8 economic crisis.   It narrates the war on terror, the securitization of everyday life, primarily but not exclusively in the U.S., and the accelerated growth in executive power.  Within nation states, “democracy lite”(565), in which the consumer was the key agent, not the citizen, and voluntarism and public-private partnerships supplanted political obligation came to the fore, while in the European Union the single market was not accompanied by supranational democratization.  The Great Recession, for which working classes across the West paid, precipitated a crisis of democracy and of liberal values as much as a crisis of capitalism.  It fueled the growth of a populist radical right and a mobilized radical left, neither of which trusted the democracies in which they lived.  Democratic politics reinforced differences rather than reconciling them.  This marked the culmination of processes that began in the 1970s.  Whether this crisis of democracy will continue or we are entering a third postwar era is an open question, but Reid-Henry argues that only a change in ideas, rather than institutions and policies, will move his West in that direction.

As Marc-William Palen points out in his review, Empire of Democracy offers a wide-ranging synthesis of a growing body of work on neoliberalism, globalization, the end of the Cold War, and the geopolitical and economic crises of the first decades of the twenty-first century.  John A. Thompson admires its “lucid, live style” and calls “this huge book… a huge achievement.”  Otte expresses some concern that no archival sources were used and only English language secondary sources consulted, but nonetheless concludes that “this book offers much that is commendable and certainly this reviewer has found in it much food for thought.”

Empire of Democracy is both ambitious in chronology and narrower in geographic scope.  Palen admires the book’s “innovative reconceptualization of longstanding chronological frameworks.”   Michelle Paranzino commends Reid-Henry’s willingness to carry his interpretive narrative down to the present, something many historians shy away from.  For some, the “West” of the title proved more problematic.  The West, a term of conservative connotations, seems at odds with Reid-Henry’s admiration for more participatory and socially egalitarian forms of democracy.  The West includes only the U.S., Britain, continental Europe, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.  The book is a transnational history rather than a global one.  Otte argues that not putting developments in the North Atlantic and Antipodes in global context was “a missed opportunity.”  Paranzino wonders whether “the ‘West’ holds much value as a conceptual category anymore.” She suggests that if Reid-Henry had focused instead on the First World as defined by the U.S., the history of democracy would be more complex.  While that broader category included many countries that were not initially democracies, many have subsequently become so, even as some European states have transitioned in an illiberal direction

Some of the reviewers raise concerns about the book’s definition of democracy.  Reid-Henry does insist that democracy is “something that is constantly made and remade” (8) and he traces the transnational contours of this remaking well.  Yet, Paranzino regrets that “virtually all liberal democracies are treated as interchangeable;” as a result the often significant policy differences among them are neither described nor explained. Thompson finds that there was “a somewhat disconcerting unsteadiness” about the meaning of the term democracy, a slippage between viewing it as political process and a social ideal.

Several reviewers raise concerns about empire.  Palen finds empire to be “the least developed concept.”  He urges attention to earlier theories of imperialism.  J. A. Hobson, for example, saw capitalist interdependence as a means of bolstering democracy whereas the neoliberalism Reid-Henry analyzes has impeded democracy.  It was “a repudiation of the very capitalistic theories that had underpinned the more liberal post-1945 economic order.”  Hobson also argues that the rather rosy picture of liberal democracies prior to the 1970s, which Reid-Henry paints look considerably more blemished if their responses to movements of national liberation and decolonization are considered.  Paranzino notes that empire is discussed with no attention to imperial subjects, and this despite the vast body of literature on the interdependence of metropole and periphery and the lasting legacy of colonialism and decolonization.

Otte and Paranzino fear that admirable teasing out of broad transnational trends leads to the neglect of how these developments differed in important ways in different countries.  Otte notes that the causes of current discontent in virtually all western democracies have more varied and nationally specific causes than Reid-Henry suggests.  Paranzino argues broad national similarities blur distinctive national chronologies.  The culture wars in America, for example, date back to the 1960s, and the imperial presidency did not begin with George W. Bush.

Two reviewers raise questions of causality.  Otte flags the “inevitabilist assumptions” that seem to underlie the book’s narrative of declension since 1970s.  He urges attention to contingencies, especially to the character and actions of particular political leaders. Thompson identifies a lack of clarity about whether the rise of neoliberalism and the decline of social democracy were “driven by objective economic conditions.” Reid-Henry argues in places that prosperity was the underlying and necessary basis for the more social democratic forms of capitalism and democracy in the 1950 and 1960s; its disappearance made their decline inevitable or at least very likely.  At other times, he suggests that changing social attitudes which stressed the individual over larger collectivities, the market over the state were of foremost importance.

Despite its rather daunting length (800+ pages) and the “many factual slips” that Otte finds “jarring,” all reviews find much to admire in Empire of Democracy and deem it to be of value especially to the general reader.  Its publication seems especially timely, as recent economic, political, and medical crises have raised in acute form the question of how democracy and capitalism will evolve, in Reid-Henry’s ‘West’ and beyond.

Reid-Henry offers a lengthy and spirited response to the commentaries that elaborates on several of his arguments and conceptual choices.  He defends his focus on the West, insisting that far from being a settled geography, it has been constantly reinvented.  Many other works, he notes, look outward from Europe and America, while his concern was to look inward at the ongoing ways in which democracy and capitalism interacted and have been contested and reconfigured from within since the 1970s.  He defends the book’s focus on liberalism and capitalism rather than the legacy of empire, arguing that they are central to understanding contemporary history.  “There are,” he notes, “many sides to the struggle to decolonize knowledge and its institutional repositories.” He likewise rejects the suggestion that he should have attended more to national particularities, for he wanted to “break out of the sovereign territorial mold.” The question remains, however, how best to move the analysis among the scales of the national, transnational, and global and how much weight to give to each.  He offers a cogent defense of 1971 as his starting point.

Addressing more methodological issues, Reid-Henry vigorously insists on the importance of ideas, but refuses to prioritize ideas over political-economic factors and says he seeks a middle ground that avoids “schematic formulations.  He defends his refusal to define democracy as clearly as some critics wish, arguing that his aim is to unpack the tensions within democratic values and the contestation between democracy as a political process and a social ideal.  In response to Otte’s critique that the narrative of declension seemed inevitabilist, Reid-Henry argues that political struggles, which feature so prominently in his narrative, are always contingent.  Finally, Reid-Henry is disappointed that none of the commentators reflected on the fact that the book was “written by a geographer with a geographical set of intentions.” Fair enough.  One wishes, however, that he had laid out in the book or in his response what the particular intentions and contributions of geographers were so as to promote a more fruitful dialogue between the two disciplines.

Participants:

Simon Reid-Henry is Professor of Historical and Political Geography at Queen Mary University of London, Director of QMUL’s Institute for Humanities and Social Sciences, and an Associate of the Peace Research Institute Oslo.  His previous books include of The Political Origins of Inequality: Why a More Equal World is better for us All (University of Chicago Press, 2015), The Cuban Cure: Reason and Resistance in Global Science (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Mary Nolan is Professor of History emerita at NYU.  She is the author of Visions of Modernity: American Business and the Modernization of Germany (Oxford University Press (1994) and The Transatlantic Century: Europe and America, 1890-2010 (Cambridge University Press, 2012), and co-editor of Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties (Routledge, 2018).  She is currently working on the gender politics of right radical populism in Europe and the United States.

T.G. Otte is Professor of Diplomatic History at the University of East Anglia.  His latest book is Statesman of Europe: A Life of Sir Edward Grey (Allen Lane, 2020).

Marc-William Palen is Senior Lecturer in the History Department at the University of Exeter.  He is editor of the Imperial & Global Forum and co-director of History & Policy’s Global Economics and History Forum.  His works include The “Conspiracy” of Free Trade: The Anglo-American Struggle over Empire and Economic Globalisation, 1846-1896 (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His current book project, under contract with Princeton University Press, explores the global intersections of capitalism, anti-imperialism, and peace activism from the mid-nineteenth century to today.

Michelle Paranzino (formerly Getchell) is an assistant professor in the Department of Strategy & Policy at the US Naval War College.  She is the author of The Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War: A Short History with Documents (Cambridge/Indianapolis: Hackett, 2018) and is currently working on a book about the Reagan administration and the War on Drugs.

John A. Thompson gained his BA and Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge where he is now Emeritus Reader in American History and an Emeritus Fellow of St Catharine’s College.  His principal research interests have been American liberalism and U.S. debate about foreign policy.  His publications include Reformers and War: American Progressive Publicists and the First World War (Cambridge University Press, 1987), Woodrow Wilson (Longman, 2002), and numerous articles and book chapters.  His most recent book, A Sense of Power: The Roots of America’s Global Role (Cornell University Press, 2015), was the subject of an H-Diplo/ISSF Roundtable in 2016, https://issforum.org/roundtables/8-15-sense-of-power

Continue reading “H-Diplo Roundtable on Empire of Democracy: The Remaking of the West since the Cold War, 1971-2017”

Decolonising Europe #12: Decolonising the Non-Colonisers?

This the 12th session of the successful Decolonising Europe Lecture Series. In this session the gaze is towards Eastern Europe. Where is Eastern Europe in the history of global colonialism? This session explores why Eastern Europe has been largely absent from mainstream histories of global colonialism and studies of postcolonialism and decolonialism.

Detail Summary
Date 17 February 2021
Time 16:00 -17:00

The region’s integration into capitalism meant integrating into an evolving global colonial-racial system. Eastern Europeans were often racialised as inferior and ‘uncivilised’ while their region became a dependent hinterland and colonial arena of various imperialist projects. However, Eastern Europeans also supported global colonialism, (re)produced white supremacy and Eurocentric or colonial worldviews, partook in colonial expeditions and accumulated colonial collections, and strove to acquire colonies and build empires. The region’s contradictory historical relationship with colonialism is laden with the tensions and challenges of ‘in-betweenness’: being part of ‘white Europe’ and striving to ‘catch up’ to the West, but being ‘not-quite-white’ and a (semi)periphery of the core. This tension facilitated various strategies of globally manoeuvring between rebel anti-colonial alliances and comprador colonialist positions.

How do these contradictory histories inform current debates about anti-racism and decolonisation? What are the challenges of decolonial politics in a postsocialist region where “white lives matter”? Can we decolonise the ‘non-colonisers’?

This event is co-organized by ACES and Zoltán Ginelli to foster dialogue on Decolonising Eastern Europe. Please follow the group Decolonizing Eastern Europe on Facebook and Twitter for existing debates and collaborations on the topic.

Zoltán Ginelli is a critical geographer and Independent Researcher from Budapest (Hungary), currently working on his book on the global history of the ‘quantitative revolution’. He is member of Karl Polanyi Research Centre and the Dialoguing Posts Network. During 2015–2019, he worked as Assistant Researcher in the Leverhulme Trust and AHRC research projects 1989 After 1989 and Socialism Goes Global. He is co-curating with Eszter Szakács the exhibition Transperiphery Movement: Global Eastern Europe and Global South for the 2021 OFF-Biennale Budapest. Zoltán is founder admin of Decolonizing Eastern Europe (FacebookTwitter) and blogs at kritikaifoldrajz.hu.

James Mark is a Professor of History at the University of Exeter. He has recently been part of projects aimed at rethinking Eastern European history in the context of global Empires and their ends. He was Principal Investigator on a Leverhulme Research Leadership Award (2014 – 2019): ‘1989 after 1989: Rethinking the Fall of State Socialism in Global Perspective’; and an Arts and Humanities Research Council (UK) funded project; ‘Socialism Goes Global: Cold War Connections Between the ‘Second’ and ‘Third Worlds” (2015-19).  He is the author of The Unfinished Revolution: Making Sense of the Communist Past in Central-Eastern Europe (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010) and co-author of Europe’s 1968: Voices of Revolt (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014); 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe and co-editor of Alternative Globalisations: Eastern Europe and the Postcolonial World. A co-written work reframing Eastern European history as part of a global story of Empires and their ends will be published with OUP later this year.

Click here for further details and to register

Young Women against Apartheid: Gender, Youth and South Africa’s Liberation Struggle

Emily Bridger
University of Exeter

On a night in 1983, the apartheid police came knocking on the door of a family home in the township of Soweto, located just outside Johannesburg. They were looking for ‘Vicky’ – a seventeen-year-old school student who, according to their informant, was involved in local anti-apartheid politics in the area. They found Vicky asleep in the bedroom she shared with her sisters and drove her to the local police station along with the six young male activists they had also rounded up that night.

Upon arriving at the station, Vicky was relieved. Her father, a local township policeman, was on duty. Surely he would release her, she thought. Yet instead, he was furious to see his daughter amongst the night’s catch of young political troublemakers. To him, her transgression was two-fold: first, in participating in the liberation struggle she was defying apartheid laws and threatening the hegemony of the apartheid state; and second, she had done this as a girl. ‘What’s wrong with you?’ He shouted at her. ‘Why don’t I get your brothers here? I only get you here, hey? You are a woman! How can you do this?’

This belief that girls and young women had no place in South Africa’s liberation struggle was held by many in Soweto at this time. And, in the almost four decades since, the presumption that political militarism was a male prerogative has led historians to paint the final, turbulent years of the country’s anti-apartheid struggle as a male-dominated affair in which girls and young women appear only as marginalised bystanders or victims of male-instigated violence. Since the mid-1970s, the struggle had been increasingly led by the country’s black male youth – children and students who became the vanguards and shock-troops of the anti-apartheid movement. As township politics grew increasingly confrontational during the 1980s, with renewed political resistance met by the state’s increased militarisation, girls and young women were thought to have been largely excluded from township politics.  

Yet from 2013 to 2016 I met and interviewed dozens of women in Soweto who, like Vicky, had put their lives on the line to fight against apartheid while still teenagers and school students. Alongside young men, they had protested in the streets, picked up stones to throw at police vehicles, launched petrol bombs at enemy targets, and been detained, interrogated, and tortured by the apartheid state. Yet unlike young men, these young women had fought a battle on two fronts: against both the white supremacy of apartheid and local gender norms which confined them to the home, made them vulnerable to overlapping forms of personal and criminal violence, and stigmatised their political militarism.

It is these girls’ stories that Young Women against Apartheid seeks to tell. Based on three years of oral history and archival research, it explores what life was like for African girls under apartheid, why some chose to join the liberation struggle, and how they navigated the benefits and dangers that political activism posed. At the heart of the book lies the life histories of these women themselves. Now in their forties and fifties, most were eager to share their past experiences, repudiating arguments of young women’s absence from political activism during these years and constructing themselves as decisive actors in South Africa’s liberation struggle. Continue reading “Young Women against Apartheid: Gender, Youth and South Africa’s Liberation Struggle”

Youth against Empire

Insurgent Youth

Cross-posted from Comparative Studies in Society and History

STACEY HYND
Small Warriors? Children and Youth in Colonial Insurgencies and Counterinsurgency, ca. 1945–1960

MYLES OSBORNE
“Mau Mau are Angels … Sent by Haile Selassie”: A Kenyan War in Jamaica

Sometimes CSSH articles fit together remarkably well. One would almost think they were written to each other, like intellectual greeting cards, or the correspondence of old friends. Such is the case with two recent essays by Stacey Hynd (62/4: 684-713) and Myles Osborne (62/4: 714-744). Here’s how our editors characterized them:

INSURGENT YOUTH  The ranks of insurgencies are mostly filled by the young. The youth take to the streets and barricades more readily than do the aged, the propertied, and the established. Insurgencies depend on youth not only for their energy and hope, but also for the ways “youth” indexes the future, and presents a visage of innocence that seems relatively untainted by the stains and debris of historical wrongs. Yet insurgency can also be forced upon the young, even onto the fragile shoulders of children. The sources, networks, and reasons for recruitment are too often less than clear.

In “Small Warriors? Children and Youth in Colonial Insurgencies and Counterinsurgency, ca. 1946–1960,” Stacey Hynd explores how young insurgents are recruited and mobilized. Comparing Kenya and Cyprus in the 1940s and 1950s, Hynd shows that while some youth were coerced into armed rebellions, others joined of their own will. Teenaged warriors brought needed numbers but were especially valued for the ways they symbolized innocence and hope, helping to catalyze broader support for the movement.

Myles Osborne’s contribution also leads us to Kenya. In “‘Mau Mau Are Angels … Sent by Haile Selassie’: A Kenyan War in Jamaica,” Osborne examines the impact of Kenya’s Mau Mau uprising as the news of it circulated in Jamaica during the 1950s. The Mau Mau insurgency inspired Rastafari and other young and mostly poor Jamaicans, who saw it as a form of pan-Africanism much like Marcus Garvey’s. This version of Black Power in the Caribbean reveals intellectual frameworks developed by subaltern youth, and transnational circuits of pan-Africanism that formed even without direct contact or diffusion.

CSSH: We enjoyed reading your papers together. The overlaps in approach give incredible richness to the local insurgencies and global cultures of resistance you describe. Even more pleasant was learning that the close fit was as uncanny for you as it was for us. It wasn’t exactly a coincidence, but it’s fair to say you didn’t see it coming! Continue reading “Youth against Empire”

Researching Revolutions: A Staff-Student Collaborative Project

Reflections on Researching and Teaching a History of the French Empire: A Staff-Student Collaborative Project at the University of Exeter 

This multi-authored blog post details a collaborative project run by Dr Alex Fairfax-Cholmeley since January 2020. Seven History students at the University of Exeter (single and combined honours) were selected to work as Project Advisors alongside Alex as he researched and wrote a journal article on connections between the revolutions in France and the French colony of  Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) during the 1790s. Alex and the Project Advisors have also developed a series of teaching resources linked to the journal article. These will be made publicly available once the article has been published. The Project Advisors are Isaac Avery, Nick Collins, Ella Kennedy, Lizzie Laurence, Eleanor Lionel, Jessica Lloyd and Arlen Veysey. 

The French colony of Saint-Domingue (now Haiti) in the Caribbean, here outlined in green, was a plantation economy that became the world centre of sugar production in the eighteenth century. The sugar (and other products including coffee and indigo) was produced by the ruthless exploitation of the colony’s slave population. Detail from Guillaume Delisle, Carte de l’isle de Saint Domingue (1725) (source: gallica.bnf.fr/BnF)

Project overview 

Ella Kennedy writes: I applied to be a Project Advisor because this area of history really interested me. The project is centred around the idea of a ‘Dual Revolution’: the symbiotic influences of the infamous French Revolution and the Saint-Domingue slave revolution across the Atlantic (which is not so engrained in the public historical consciousness). The application process also declared an interest in making academic research more accessible for students. For me personally, the social foundations of this historical research were engaging. Alex’s work uses the proliferating French pamphlet culture during the mid-1790s as evidence for competing domestic French discourses about revolutionary events in Saint-Domingue, as well as underlying issues such as slavery. The project’s transatlantic approach helps explore a number of themes, including changing values within French Revolutionary society, public engagement with and education about revolutionary events (both in France and in Saint-Domingue), and the impact of empire on the issue of equality within France.

Inevitably, the project’s focus did evolve. For example, the original and expansive timeframe that we had intended to focus on (covering much of the 1790s) has narrowed, and a month from the middle of the period (Fructidor Year II in the French Revolutionary calendar, or August/September 1794) became more prominent. However, the educational purpose of the project has prevailed, with the group producing a set of learning resources to accompany the article for student readers. Hopefully, these resources will help to guide undergraduate students through the complexities of understanding the primary source material on which it is based (via worksheets with translated pamphlet extracts) and the dual historical contexts (via a timeline and biographies of key historical actors). These resources are intended to equip student readers with the tools necessary to tackle this and similar articles. Continue reading “Researching Revolutions: A Staff-Student Collaborative Project”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

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

From African Americans and the fate of Haiti to how Bridgerton erased Haiti, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Mob that burned down the offices of the Wilmington Daily Record. Getty Images.

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

From life in the shadow of Cecil Rhodes to digitizing the Nuremberg trials, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Spring Term @ExeterCIGH Seminar Schedule

The Spring Term is now upon us, and so please find the Centre for Imperial and Global History seminar schedule below for your calendars.

Please direct any inquiries about attending to the seminar convenor, Dr Lyubi Spaskovska.

Date and Location (Term 2) Speaker Paper Title
20th January 2021 (Week 2), 17:00h

 

CIGH-CMHS joint event

John Siblon (Birkbeck)

Commemoration as imperial hierarchy: The memorialization of African, Asian and Caribbean seamen after the First World War
3rd February 2021 (Week 4), 15:30h Cyrus Schayegh (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies,

Geneva)

The Middle East in the world: a modern history in documents

 

24th February 2021 (Week 7), 15:30h Kama Maclean (Heidelberg University) Coercive Institutions and the crisis of collaboration in late colonial India

 

3rd March 2021 (Week 8), 17:00h CIGH-CMHS joint event

Anyaa Anim-Addo (University of Leeds)

“Miss Jenny” in port: leisure and labour mobilities in the post-slavery Caribbean
17th March 2021 (Week 10), 15:30h

 

Joint event with Violence

Sarah Dunstan (Queen Mary University, London)

Race, Rights and Reform: Black Activism in the French Empire and the United States from World War I to Cold War

 

24th March 2021 (Week 11), 17:00h

 

Gajendra Singh in conversation with Neilesh Bose (University of Victoria) South Asian Migrations in Global History