White supremacists are on the march, but the KKK’s Invisible Empire is history

Klan newspaper of the 1970s.

Kristofer Allerfeldt
University of Exeter

When Donald Trump repeatedly equated the far-right activists who marched in Charlottesville, Virginia with the anti-fascist counter-protesters, the media’s reaction was swift and clear. The next covers of both the New Yorker and The Economist featured cartoons of Trump and a Ku Klux Klan hood. In one, the president guides a ship of state with a sail shaped like a hood; in the other, he shouts into a megaphone designed to look like the infamous white headpiece.

To many commentators, the Klan costume is now the perfect visual sleight with which to decry Trump’s cack-handed false equivalence. After all, hoods and burning crosses are the most potent icons of American white supremacy, an easy shorthand for racism and bigotry. But despite the scenes of extrovert white supremacists on the march with burning torches in Charlottesville, something important has changed: today, there is essentially no such thing as “the Klan”. Continue reading “White supremacists are on the march, but the KKK’s Invisible Empire is history”

Protectionism 100 years ago helped ignite a world war. Could it happen again?

A pro-Republican cartoon from 1900 depicting “the white light of protection” shining down upon America’s newly acquired empire at the dawn of the 20th century. American Economist, 28 Dec. 1900.

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

[Editor’s note: Below is from my editorial just published in the Washington Post‘s series “Made by History,” a remarkable new initiative for historians to engage with current affairs, co-edited by Nicole Hemmer (@pastpunditry) and Brian Rosenwald (@brianros1).]

The liberal economic order that defined the post-1945 era is disintegrating.

Globalization’s foremost champions have become the first to signal the retreat in the wake of the Great Recession. Economic nationalism, historically popular in times of economic crisis, is once again on the rise in Britain, France and the United States. We are witnessing a return to the antagonistic protectionist politics that defined a bygone era that ended with World War I — suggesting that today’s protectionist revival threatens not just the global economy, but world stability and peace. Continue reading “Protectionism 100 years ago helped ignite a world war. Could it happen again?”

History and the Global Economic Order

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

According to a longstanding international relations theory, the global economic order is at its most orderly when there’s at least one hegemonic free-trade champion.

As per this theory, Britain took this role upon itself in the mid-nineteenth century, ushering in a brief transatlantic flirtation with trade liberalization and relative hemispheric peace.

The United States was the first major nation to turn against this mid-nineteenth century free-trade epoch. From the Civil War to the Great Depression, the United States instead embarked upon nearly a century of Republican-style economic nationalism, which I’ve explored in my own work.

But this began to change following the Second World War when the United States assumed the mantle of free-trade hegemon. Promising prosperity, profits, and peace to the world, it sought to foster international trade liberalization through supranational initiatives like the International Monetary Fund (1944) and the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (1947), the latter of which morphed into the World Trade Organization in 1995.

Well, the times they are a-changing again.

Trump’s fast-developing protectionist and ultra-nationalist “America First” program has signalled that the United States is abdicating its role as free-trade leader. As the New York Times noted earlier this month:

President Trump’s advisers and allies are pushing an ambitious idea: Remake American trade. They are considering sweeping aside decades of policy and rethinking how the United States looks at trade with every country. Essentially, after years of criticizing China and much of Europe for the way they handle imports and exports, these officials want to copy them. This approach could result in higher barriers to imports that would end America’s decades-long status as the world’s most open large economy.

The Trump regime’s protectionist trade vision is fast becoming reality.

So what does this mean for the future of the global economic order?

And have we seen all of this before?

Continue reading “History and the Global Economic Order”

Children have long been unfairly hit by US presidential executive orders

Children bear the brunt. EPA/Eugene Garcia
Children bear the brunt. EPA/Eugene Garcia

Rachel Pistol
University of Exeter

Around 75 years ago, in February 1942, US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which led to the forced relocation and internment of more than 110,000 individuals of Japanese ancestry. The majority of them were American citizens, and a large proportion were children.

But unlike President Trump’s 2017 executive order to halt immigration and ban refugees from American soil, Roosevelt’s sweeping political move did not provoke any protest or dissent. Both presidents had mentioned the notion of “national security’ in their orders, and both decrees were said to be aimed at specific national groups. So is President Trump merely copying the policy of one of his more popular predecessors?

From the moment the US entered World War II in late 1941, all “enemy aliens” living in America – German, Austrian, Italian, and Japanese – were subject to restrictions on their freedom. These included the imposition of curfews and a ban on owning radios. So the real significance of EO9066, as it is known, was that it authorised the detention not just of enemy aliens, but also of American citizens. In theory, any American citizen could be relocated by order of the military. Continue reading “Children have long been unfairly hit by US presidential executive orders”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Anthony Russo
Anthony Russo

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

From how Muhammad Ali helped globalize Black Power to whether American Samoans are American citizens, a special ‘American Empire’ edition of this week’s top picks in imperial and global history.

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