• 2019 Winner: Lauren Benton
  • Latest Conference: "The Fight for Global Equality"
  • Latest Interviews

Welcome to the Toynbee Prize Foundation

The Foundation seeks to promote scholarly engagement with global history through several activities. Foremost among these is the Toynbee Prize, an award granted every other year to recognize outstanding work in global history. As an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, the Foundation sponsors one session at the Association’s annual meeting. In the years in which the Prize is awarded, the recipient presents a lecture. In alternate years, the Foundation sponsors a session on global history.

What We’re Reading This Week

Eugène Delacroix: Liberty Leading the People, 1830. Source: Musée du Louvre, Paris.

MEGHNA CHAUDHURI

Alf Gunvald Nilsen, ‘How Can We Understand India’s Agrarian Struggle Beyond “Modi Sarkar Murdabad”?,’ EPW.

‘What Europeans Talk About When They Talk About Brexit,’ London Review of Books.

Peter Baker, ‘”We The People”: The Battle to Define Populism,’ The Guardian.

Gautam Bhatia, ‘ICLP Round Table: Oranit Shani’s “How India Became Democratic” – I: Laying the Foundations,’ Indian Constitutional Law and Philosophy.

COLLIN BERNARD

Adam Tooze, ‘Framing Crashed (8) – Provincializing Europe?,’ Blog Adam Tooze.

David Bell, ‘The Many Lives of Liberalism,’ The New York Review of Books.

Kevin Kruse and Julian Zelizer, ‘Have We had Enough of the Imperial Presidency Yet?,’ The New York Times.

Erin Bartram, ‘How Ph.D.s Romanticize the “Regular” Job Market,’ The Chronicle of Higher Education.

ADEN KNAAP

Gurminder K. Bhambra, ‘Brexit, Empire, and Decolonization,’ History Workshop.

Jon Piccini, ‘A White Working Man’s Country,’ Flood Media.

Daniel Denvir and Melinda Cooper, ‘Family Values with Melinda Cooper,’ The Dig.

Jeanne Morefield, ‘Trump’s Foreign Policy Isn’t the Problem,’ Boston Review.

Gil Rubin, ‘Beyond the Zionist Nation-State,’ Tablet.

How Do We Teach Global History? A Toynbee Prize Conversation

In this new feature for the Toynbee Prize Blog, we’ve invited five academics, representing a variety of institutions around the world, to reflect upon their experiences in designing and delivering courses to undergraduate and graduate students in global history.

What are the current challenges for teaching global history? What materials or techniques have proven effective? What are the pedagogical implications of these approaches? These are just some of the issues we will explore in an open, frank exchange of ideas.

We hope reflecting upon the pedagogy of global history will prove of use to our wider readership as we consider how the subject may be taught going forward.

Process: We’ve asked respondents to answer five broad questions. Once all responses were received, the editor shared the responses amongst the participants, inviting comment and re-appraisal of responses. These further responses were then lightly copy-edited before publication.

Participants:

Dr Qiao Yu (Capital Normal University Beijing)

Dr Philippa Hetherington (University College London)

Dr João Júlio Gomes dos Santos Júnior (Universidade Estadual do Ceará)

Dr Steffen Rimner (Utrecht University)

Sean Phillips (University of Oxford)

What We’re Reading This Week

United Nations Social Committee chair Eleanor Roosevelt (right) with colleagues of Venezuela.

NATALIE BEHRENDS

Danielle Jackson, ‘Memory and the Lost Cause,’ Longreads.

Peter Brown, ‘Between Two Empires,’ The New York Review of Books.

Daniel Rodgers, ‘The Uses and Abuses of “Neoliberalism”,’ Dissent.

Daniel Stolz, ‘The Lighthouse and the Observatory,’ Jadaliyya.

YEHOR BRAILIAN

Santanu Das, ‘Indians in World War One,’ Historyextra.

Livia Gershon, ‘What Does History Smell Like,’ JSTOR Daily.

‘Why do the British Know so Little about Irish History?,’ History Today.

BOYD VAN DIJK

Arundhati Roy and Avni Sejpal, ‘How to Think About Empire,’ Boston Review.

Alex Shams, ‘The Weaponization of Nostalgia,’ Ajam Media Collective.

Robert Zaretsky, ‘Michel Houellebecq Hated Europe Before You Did,’ Foreign Policy.

Yehudah Mirsky, ‘The End of the World That 1948 Made,’ Tablet.

CFP: The Fifth Berlin International Global History Student Conference 2019 (May 31-June 1, 2019, Berlin, Germany)

For graduate student readers of the Global History Blog, this recent call for applications is for you. The students of the Global History MA program at Humboldt University Berlin and Freie Universität Berlin have announced “The Fifth Berlin International Global History Student Conference 2019.” This graduate student-focused conference on global history provides the opportunity to…

Dominic Sachsenmaier’s Laudation for 2019 Toynbee Prize winner Lauren Benton

Dominic Sachsenmaier, President of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, delivered the following laudation in awarding the 2019 Toynbee Prize to Lauren Benton, Nelson O. Tyrone, Jr. Professor of History and Professor of Law at Vanderbilt University. The prize was formally awarded to Benton at the 133rd Annual Meeting of the American Historical Association in Chicago. Benton then delivered…

What We’re Reading This Week

Tabula Peutingeriana (Ancient Jew Review).

JOSEPH SATISH

Matan Rochlitz, “Liberation of the Soul Through Diet – How a Jain Ascetic Lives,” Aeon.

Rajan Krishnan, “Patel Statue and Pillage of History,” Frontline.

“Too Late in the Day? Dr MS Swaminathan Clarifies His Views on GMO,” Swarajya.

CHRIS SZABLA

Dmitri van den Meerssche, “Interview: Martti Koskenniemi on International Law and the Rise of the Far-Right,” OpinioJuris.

Jonathon Catlin, “Koselleck and the Image,” JHIBlog.

Farah Mohammed, “The New Meaning of Monuments,” JSTOR Daily.

JOSHUA MILSTEIN

Timothy Luckritz Marquis, “Journeys in the Roman East,” Ancient Jew Review.

Adam Kotsko, “The Political Theology of Trump,” N+1.

Eric Weitz, “The Soviet Union and the Creation of the International Human Rights System,” Zeitgeschichte Online.

JAMES PARKER

Susie Linfield, “Growing Up After Genocide,” Dissent.

Ashoka Mukpo, “The Tyranny of Good Intentions,” Africa is a Country.

Kim Phillips-Fein, “The Making of Twentieth Century New York,” The Nation.

Islam, Constitutionalism, and the Nation State in Afghanistan: An Interview with Faiz Ahmed

In January of 2004, following weeks of debate by a Loya Jirga, an Afghan variant of a national assembly, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan adopted a constitution. As boldly declared in its opening chapter, Afghanistan’s 2004 constitution pledged to create “a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, preservation of human dignity, protection of human rights, realization of democracy, attainment of national unity as well as equality between all peoples and tribes.” It also stipulated that no law would contravene the tenets and provisions of Islam. At the time, outside observers noted with great fanfare the avowed synthesis of republican and Islamic principles contained within the constitution, and its prescription of laws which melded Islam and democratic values.

Afghanistan Rising. Source: Harvard University Press

As Faiz Ahmed, Associate Professor of History at Brown University, shows in his book, Afghanistan Rising: Islamic Law and Statecraft between the Ottoman and British Empires, the 2004 constitution was not the inception of Afghan constitutional history. Nor was the model of state-shariʿa interaction on display there the only one attested within this history. Ninety years before the adoption of the 2004 charter, a Loya Jirga had approved Afghanistan’s first written constitution, as well as scores of supplementary legal codes produced by a multinational drafting commission assembled by Amir Amanullah Khan, the king of Afghanistan from 1919 to 1929, whose project of Islamic legal reform and creativity is at the heart of this book.

In order to understand Amanullah’s project of legal codification, Ahmed situates the history of modern Afghanistan in a context of trade, interimperial rivalry, and intellectual and cultural exchange prevailing between today’s Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East from the 17th-20th centuries. The book recounts the birth of the Afghan state out of the ashes of the Mughal and Safavid empires, and traces, from the mid-19th century, increasing official contacts between the Afghan leadership and the Ottoman Empire, which at this time embarked on an eastward diplomatic and economic push to counter the gains made by European trading companies and states and to strike its roots deeper into Central Asia.

At the center of this history are not militant adventures and jihads, but the networks and content of a broader series of crossborder associations and relationships he designates as “Islamic legal modernism” and “juridical Pan-Islamism.” Both processes are rooted in the publication and study of Islamic legal and administrative literature by Muslim scholars and lawyers from the Balkans to Bengal. Within this framework, Ahmed considers the Tanzimat reforms, the Ottoman Constitution of 1876, and the Ottoman Civil Code (also known as the Mecelle) as leading examples of state-directed projects of Islamic legal modernism in the Ottoman domains. Such projects had unexpected ramifications outside of Ottoman territories, sometimes traceable through the itineraries of representatives of the Ottoman state. The impact of these projects, along with a range of other Ottoman initiatives, was largely felt via the presence of Ottoman experts and experts from the British Indian domain, who had made their way to Kabul in search of employment over a period of about 40 years preceding the reign of Amanullah. These professionals constituted an Ottoman and Indian “rule of experts” in Kabul, assisting the three generations of Afghanistan’s Muhammadzai Amirate (1880-1929) analyzed in this book in their various projects of centralization and reform.

Combining episodes of elite diplomacy and royal family politics, the grassroots itineraries of pilgrims and students, and Afghan acclaim for the institution of the Ottoman caliphate, which mounted from the last quarter of the 19th century and peaked during World War I, the book converges upon the years following Afghan independence in 1919 and the legal reforms of King Amanullah Khan (1892-1960). The young scion of the Muhammadzai dynasty, after casting off the yoke of British protectorate status, launched immediately into a series of wide-ranging reforms. Among these was the drafting of the Nizamnama (translating as legal “protocols” or “codes” from Persian and Pashtu), which included over seventy originally-crafted statutes, manuals, and administrative regulations. At the heart of the Nizamnama was the Qanun-i Asasi (the “Basic Code”), Afghanistan’s first constitution. As Ahmed points out, the provisions in the Qanun-i Asasi calling for a rule by shariʿa were more than lip-service, or Islamic “window-dressing,” but actually contained legal precedent drawn from Islamic legal sources.

Afghanistan Rising tells a story of a modern Islamic project of statecraft and legal synthesis, undertaken against a background of broader regional connections. The early legal history of Afghanistan is an account of an Islamic politics that did not, as in contemporary cases, grasp for imported European legal codes. Nor did it constitute a case of Salafi or “Wahhabi” ideologies of Islamic reform. Rather, King Amanullah’s project emerged out of a rich history of what Ahmed calls “interislamic” cultural exchange and modern visions of politics, including a unique adaptation and application of the shariʿa to the form of the modern nation-state.

–Joshua Milstein

What We’re Reading This Week

Christiansborg Castle, Danish National Museum.

COLLIN BERNARD

Alex Traub, “India’s Dangerous New Curriculum,” New York Review of Books.

Helen Thompson, “The Unintended Euro and the Problem of Italy,” Speri Comment.

Matthew Lee and Mark Stevenson, “US and Mexico Face Stark Choice as New President Takes Over,” AP.

Alexander Diener and Joshua Hagen, “The City as a Palimpsest and Crucible of National Identity,” Global Urban History.

MEGHNA CHAUDHURI

Nile Green, “A Muslim Founder of the Social Sciences,” LA Review of Books.

Dag Herbjornsrud, “First Women of Philosophy,” Aeon.

Noah Kulwin, “Yesterday’s News,” The Baffler.

Roxanne Panchasi, “A Colonial Affair,” New Books network.

MARTIN CREVIER

Zita Nunes, “Remembering the Howard University Librarian Who Decolonized the Way Books Were Catalogued,” Smithsonian.com.

Christopher Given-Wilson, “How the Inkas Governed, Thrived and Fell Without Alphabetic Writing,” Aeon.

Padraic Scanlan, “Damon’s Case and the Meaning of British Antislavery,” EuropeNow.

FATMA ALADAG

Rachel Ama Asaa Engmann, “Slavers in the Family: What a Castle in Accra Reveals about Ghana’s History,” The Conversation.

Christopher Cannon Jones, “From Protestant Supremacy to Christian Slavery,” Black Perspectives.

What We’re Reading This Week

“New Texts Out Now: Lebanon, a Country in Fragments,” Jadaliyya.

Andrew Bacevich, “Zbigniew Brzeinski’s Cold War,” The Nation.

John Connelly, “The Polish Predicament,” LA Review of Books.

David Montero, “The Second Half of Watergate Was Bigger, Worse, and Forgotten By The Public,” Longreads.

YEHOR BRAILIAN

Stephen Moss, “Serhii Plokhy: ‘Chernobyl Exposed Soviet Secrecy’,” The Guardian.

Martins Kwazema, “Capturing the Hyper-Present: Breathing Pasts in a Living Present,” Global History Lab.

Farah Mohammed, “The New Meaning of Monuments,” JSTOR Daily.

SEAN PHILLIPS

Harriet Mercer, “Archives of the Anthropocene,” History Workshop.

Ian Johnson, “The Uighurs and China’s Long History of Trouble with Islam,” NYR Daily.

Olivia Waxman, “‘We Became Warriors Again’,” Time.

Andrew Anthony, “Interview Peter Frankopan,” The Guardian.