All posts by Timothy Nunan

Soviet Socialism with Chinese Characterisics? Understanding the Collapse of the Soviet Economy with Christopher Miller

Comparing the shifting fortunes of Russia and China over the last fifty years, one cannot but be struck by the dramatic reversal in the two countries’ fates. In 1967, the Soviet Union was in the midst of a massive military buildup that would eventually enable it to reach superiority in conventional arms and parity in nuclear arms with the United States. The Prague Spring was a year away, and in spite of earlier interventions in Hungary, socialism in the Eastern Bloc enjoyed prestige among intellectuals in the West. The Soviet economy grew at a respectable five percent annually or so. China, meanwhile, was still reeling from the effects of the Great Leap Forward when, in 1966, Mao Zedong plunged the country into the Cultural Revolution. Millions of people were persecuted, and China’s leadership nearly triggered a war with the USSR following clashes over islands in Northeast Eurasia.

Today, the two countries present quite a different story. True, since Vladimir Putin was named, then elected, President in 2000, Russia’s economy year after year until the global recession of 2008-09. And having prevented the collapse of a Middle Eastern client in Syria, not to mention Russian influence in European and American elections, Putin can present himself as a confident paladin of Russian power in the world. Yet these triumphs were built only upon the ruins of the Soviet Union, which collapsed in December 1991. And Russia today has to deal not only with the United States, but also a rising People’s Republic of China whose economy is nearly an order of magnitude larger than Russia’s. Even on a per-capita-basis, Russians are only approximately 10% wealthier than their Chinese counterparts.

Reviewing this reversal, those contemplating the decline (and subsequent revival) of Russian state power might point to 1989 as the crucial turning point. In the summer of that year, the PRC’s government imposed martial law as student protesters swarmed Tiananmen Square in central Beijing. The Chinese Communist Party declared the protests “counter-revolutionary” and launched a massive crackdown that resulted in perhaps thousands of deaths. Communist Party control over China—albeit now promoting “socialism with Chinese characteristics”—remained intact, as it does today.

In Eastern Europe, however, the Soviet General Secretary’s refusal to use Soviet military force to put down mass protests in Berlin, Prague, Budapest, and elsewhere led to the collapse of satellite regimes won at the cost of 26,000,000 lives. And whereas Chinese economic reforms strengthened the legitimacy of the ruling Communist Party, soon, in the Soviet Union itself, Mikhail Gorbachev’s economic reforms contributed to the centrifugal dissolution of the world’s largest land country into fifteen successor states.

“The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR” (UNC Press, 2016)

Could things have gone differently? Could the Soviets have reformed their economy into something along the lines of the Chinese success story? Could there have been a Soviet Tiananmen Square scenario that would have prevented Boris Yeltsin from coming to power, and thus averted what Vladimir Putin dubs the “greatest geopolitical catastrophe of the twentieth century”? It’s a huge question—and also one that our most recent guest to the Global History Forum, Christopher Miller (the Associate Director of the Brady-Johnson Program in Grand Strategy at Yale) takes on in his recent book The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy: Mikhail Gorbachev and the Collapse of the USSR (University of North Carolina Press, 2016).

Using sources in Russian and Chinese and exploiting underutilized Soviet archives, Miller’s work challenges the conventional wisdom about the great Soviet-Chinese counterfactual. Far from ignorant of Deng Xiaoping’s reinvention of Chinese socialism, Mikhail Gorbachev and the advisors around him were well aware of how the Chinese were transforming their economy. While some criticized the Chinese for abandoning socialism altogether, Gorbachev and his team consciously sought to imitiate Chinese reforms throughout the 1980s. It wasn’t for a lack of awareness or effort that would-be Soviet reformers failed to match Deng Xiaoping’s results. Rather, Miller suggests, the answer to the failure of Soviet economic reforms lies in the political economy of interest groups in the late Soviet Union. Indeed, it was precisely because large lobbies in the military, the oil and gas industry, and collective farms refused reforms that a Soviet Tiananmen would have been impossible in content if not in form. Even had the coup planners who briefly seized power from Gorbachev in August 1991, there was no way they could have imposed the austerity measures on Russians that Deng imposed on Chinese, for such cuts would have meant cutting into their own bloated budgets.

In short, Miller’s work offers not only a tight empirical reconstruction of key events in the history of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China, but also offers a new vista on the political economy of Russia and China as they emerged from that annus horribilus (for the regimes, if not tens of millions of Europeans) of 1989. In order to discuss some of the issues raised by The Struggle to Save the Soviet Economy, Toynbee Prize Foundation Executive Director Timothy Nunan recently sat down with Dr. Miller to discuss his road to writing the book, some of the results of his research, as well as his ongoing research agenda. Continue reading

Chinese Jesus: Discussing German Missionaries’ Journey “From Christ to Confucius” with Albert Wu

Is Christianity in danger of disappearing? Since at least the middle of the twentieth century, Christianity in Europe has often been seen as in decline, with the most recent surveys indicating that scarcely more than half of EU citizens believe in any God at all. Many Christian communities in the Middle East, such as the Assyrians, have been displaced through the US invasion of Iraq, the Syrian Civil War, and the emergence of ISIS. The Eastern Orthodox Church, freed in its Russian incarnation from decades of Communist rule, shows strong signs of growth in Europe. However, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the displacement of Russians means, increasingly, that Orthodoxy’s southern frontiers end thousands of miles further north than they did a century-and-a-half ago.

In fact, Christianity in the world is in no danger of vanishing. The percentage of Christians as a part of world population is nearly the same as it was a century ago. What is changing, however, is the face of Christianity, as both the Roman Catholic Church and Protestant denominations see more and more of their congregations be composed of Latin American, African, and Asian populations. Pope Francis is the first Pope from Latin America, while Brazil constitutes the single largest Catholic country. There are almost as many Catholics in Nigeria as there are in Germany. There are perhaps tens million of Chinese affiliated with official state-sponsored Protestant organizations in that country, but the proliferation of unofficial “house churches” means that there could be up to 58 million Protestants and 9 million Catholics living in the People’s Republic of China. This, in turn, would make China the fourth-largest Protestant country after only the USA, Nigeria, and Brazil.

Demographic changes like these are bound to bring about conversations about theology and dogma. To take the example of the Anglican Church, bishops from the “global South” have boycotted conferences on the grounds that North American churches are too lenient on the ordination of homosexual bishops and their blessing of same-sex marriage. Conversely, many theological conservatives who approved of Joseph Ratzinger have expressed concern over the stress that Pope Francis has placed on issues such as global warming, consumerism, and US-Cuba relations (his more traditional views on matters such as abortion and same-sex marriage notwithstanding). As nations whose entry into Christendom is inescapably entangled with European imperialism come to occupy greater prominence, the question of how “North-South” relations will affect Christianity cannot but occupy the attention of Christians and non-Christians alike.

Our latest guest to the Global History Forum, Albert Wu, offers perspectives on these question in his recent book, From Christ to Confucius: German Missionaries, Chinese Christians, and the Globalization of Christianity, 1860-1950, published with Yale University Press.

In his book, Wu (an assistant professor at the American University of Paris) explores how German Protestant and Catholic missionaries engaged with China during the late Qing period and during the Republican period. At the heart of the book stands a paradox. At the start of the period in question, German missionaries viewed Chinese Confucianism as backwards and a crucial hindrance to China’s conversion and, more broadly, modernization. Yet by the 1930s and 1940s, German Christians viewed Confucianism as a crucial ally of Christianity in China. They insisted that a synthesis of Confucianism with Christianity constituted not heresy but rather only common sense. Wu’s book explains this paradox of how Germans “struggled to make a religion with universal claims adopt particular forms” and “how a global religion should assume local guise.”

As many Christians on both sides of the North-South (not to mention European Muslims in search of a “European Islam”) debate these questions, Wu’s book provides useful historical perspective. Outgoing Toynbee Prize Foundation Executive Director Timothy Nunan recently sat down with Wu to discuss From Christ to Confucius as well as Wu’s ongoing research agenda. Continue reading

The Grid and the Territory: Discussing What Comes After the Map with William Rankin

Tools like GPS and Google Maps are so embedded in most people’s lives today that they can hardly seem worth remarking upon. Want to get from “Work” to “Home”? Simply open up the preset path into your smartphone, and the app of your choice will be glad to show you—or rather, a large blue dot—its path through the maze of streets, subway junctions, and bus lines that separate you from home.

Few people, in 2016 at least, would think about using an actual paper map to navigate from A to B. Most of the information about the other parts of your city beyond your path home are simply irrelevant to you at that particular moment, and what matters most is the accuracy of your GPS-reliant device as it guides you and the blue dot home. Not least from the perspective of the directionally challenged, the advent of GPS and similar devices just seems like the latest chapter in a history of ever-improving (because ever more accurate) mapping technologies that allow users to track moving points in space.

But as our most recent guest to the Global History Forum, William Rankin, shows in his recently published book, After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century, such a Whiggish account of modern mapping is itself far from accurate. It may be true that mapping accuracy improved over the course of the twentieth century. But such an obvious statement fails to say anything about the kinds of geographic knowledge that were produced over the same period. It also overlooks the story of how the kinds of tools used to generate said cartographical knowledge changed over the twentieth century.

If we accept the GPS beacons embedded in our smartphones—or guided missiles—as the exponent of “progress,” we risk overlooking how differently (and not just “better”) GPS’s relationship to territory and space is from those of earlier world-mapping technologies. After the Map seeks to provide, then, not just a technical history of different mapping tools over the twentieth century. It provides an analysis of how shifts in tools engendered shifts in what Rankin dubs geo-epistemology: “not just what is known about the earth, but how it is known— and how it is used.”

The story that Rankin, an Assistant Professor of History at Yale University, explores in After the Map (published with the University of Chicago Press) is thus a crucial intervention into more macro debates among historians about the importance of territory and territoriality throughout the twentieth century. It is a story of how printed maps on paper—once the sine qua non of military operations, with some fifty maps printed per British and American soldier during the 1940s—became less and less relevant in the face of new coordinate systems, radionavigation, and ultimately GPS over the course of the century. It is, in short, a story that encourages readers to go from thinking about maps merely as illustrations, or tools of centralizing political authority, to seeing them as a crucial tool through which makers and users were rethinking the meaning of concepts like territory and sovereignty. In order to discuss some of these questions, Toynbee Prize Foundation Executive Director Timothy Nunan recently spoke with Rankin about After the Map.

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Global Interior: A Conversation with Megan Black About the U.S. Interior Department in the American World Order

During the middle of a troop and advising “surge” to Afghanistan following the election of Barack Obama, U.S. Defense Department officials and Afghan President Hamid Karzai made a blockbuster announcement: Afghanistan, formerly best known for its export of opium, was said to be on the brink of becoming the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a rare mineral essential for the production of modern computers and smartphones. American geologists had stumbled onto dusty old Soviet maps of the country produced during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. Their quality was not terrific, but they hinted at enormous mineral deposits hitherto untapped that could turn Afghanistan from a large net recipient of foreign aid to a state flush with extraction-based revenues, like neighboring Turkmenistan, or Caspian Sea oil and gas giant Azerbaijan. American geologists soon conducted aerial surveys of Afghanistan that allowed them to photograph the interior of the Central Asian state. Thanks to American-made “advanced gravity and magnetic measuring equipment,” the U.S. had produced “a three-dimensional profile of mineral deposits below the earth’s surface” and “the most comprehensive geologic survey of Afghanistan ever conducted.”

The announcement, made in 2010, seemed like good news for the Afghans. But beyond obvious ongoing questions about when (if?) security conditions in Afghanistan will ever permit mining corporations the confidence to make major investments in that country, the episode also raises questions about the role of the United States in th world and the nature of sovereignty in which access to mining data may be just as crucial as political sovereignty over the piece of real estate in which this niobium deposit or that lithium bed might be located. What does political sovereignty mean for a post-2001 Afghan state if its main real hope for self-financing comes from the interface of U.S.-produced data with an international bidding process over which an Afghan people may have only limited say? While the contradictions are perhaps particularly vivid in the case of Afghanistan, the drama of how extractive industries are entangled with the sovereignty of less powerful states and nations—not least Indigenous Peoples—is an ongoing story. Recent events such as the Standing Rock protests make this ever more clear.

Megan Black, author of “The Global Interior” and our latest guest to the Global History Forum

The work of our most recent guest to the Global History Forum, Megan Black, makes clear the history behind episodes like these. A Lecturer in History at Harvard University and a Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Charles Warren Center for Studies in American History, Black studies the United States Department of the Interior as an institutional prism through which to see a new history of U.S. global reach since 1890. Often misunderstood as an obscure branch of the U.S. government, the Department of the Interior, in Black’s account, turns out to be a crucial agent of American power toward the outside world in the nineteenth and twentieth century. Rather than seeing Interior as a mere manager of that which was already “inside” the U.S. polity, she sees it as the crucial actor in a process of “interiorization” whereby resources once external to the American homeland (whether in the North American West or anywhere in the world) were made legible and potentially extractable.

While one might expect Interior’s mission to have ended once the frontier was closed and the American West swelled with settlers, Black’s account shows how Interior reinvented itself as a crucial agent for the discovery and management of “strategic minerals” around the world — first in nearby theaters in the Americas, and later globally. Studying the rise and fall of the Department of the Interior and the logics of “interiorization” it relied upon, then, constitutes not just a lens to understand the nature of American hegemony in the 20th century. It’s also a crucial story for understanding how what it meant to be sovereign changed in light of the discovery of new aerospace, computing, and nuclear technologies, and the complex mineral chains required to maintain them. While our conversation with Black therefore provides a lens into one of the most dynamic historiographical literatures today—namely that of U.S. foreign relations—it also provides a terrific example of what it might mean for scholars of global history to take minerals and mining more seriously as subjects for investigation. Outgoing Toynbee Prize Foundation Executive Director Timothy Nunan recently sat down with Dr. Black to discuss her research as well as her forthcoming book manuscript, The Global Interior. Continue reading

Postdoctoral Fellowships, Clements Center for National Security, University of Texas Austin

On the job market or in search of a post-doctoral fellowship? Here are several recently published opportunity from the Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin:

Clements Center Postdoctoral Fellowship

The Clements Center for National Security at the University of Texas at Austin seeks applications from recent PhD recipients for its Postdoctoral Fellowship Program.

Consistent with the Clements Center’s mission areas of history, strategy, and statecraft, applicants from all disciplines whose research bears directly on foreign and defense policy, intelligence, or international security are welcome to apply. However, strong preference will be given to applicants with a doctorate in history or whose research has a strong historical component (ancient or modern). Successful applicants will be able to spend the substantial portion of their time working on their own research and writing projects, while taking advantage of the many academic resources available at the University of Texas-Austin. Additionally, Fellows will be required to play an active role in the Clements Center’s programs and activities; any specific responsibilities will be by mutual agreement between the Fellow and the Clements Center leadership. Fellows accepted to the program will be offered a competitive stipend, full use of UT facilities, and office space at the Clements Center. In some cases Fellows will be welcome to teach a course at the University of Texas. Each appointment is for one year, and in exceptional cases may be considered for renewal for a second year.

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Intelligence Studies

The Intelligence Studies Project (ISP) of the Clements Center for National Security and the Strauss Center for International Security and Law will grant a postdoctoral fellowship in intelligence studies to a promising young scholar. This unique fellowship is intended to support the next generation of scholars and educators in the field of intelligence.

Applicants from all disciplines whose research bears on national security intelligence are welcome to apply. The successful applicant will be expected to work on research and writing projects of their own design, while taking advantage of the academic resources available at the University of Texas-Austin.  The Fellow will be expected to play an active role in programs and activities organized by the ISP, Clements and Strauss centers.  Any specific responsibilities will be by mutual agreement between the Fellow and the ISP Director. The Fellow accepted for this program will be offered a competitive stipend, full use of UT facilities, and workspace. Depending upon qualifications and interest, the Fellow may have the opportunity to teach a course at UT-Austin. The fellowship appointment is for one year, but in an exceptional case may be renewed for a second year.

Interested? Further information is available here. Please note that applications are due by March 3, 2017 for the former position and March 1, 2017 for the latter position in Intelligence Studies; however, as the announcement notes, applicants receive their doctorate by August 2017 to be eligible for appointment.

Lecturer in Global and Imperial History, University of Exeter

For those on the job market this year, here is an attractive position at the University of Exeter, via their Imperial & Global Forum. The University is seeking a Lecturer in Global and Imperial History. As the call for applications notes:

The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university that combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 21,000 students from more than 130 different countries and is in the top 1% of universities in the world with 98% of its research rated as being of international quality. Our research focuses on some of the most fundamental issues facing humankind today.

The post of Lecturer in Global and Imperial History will contribute to extending the research profile of History at Exeter, particularly in areas related or complementary to the transnational history of imperialism, globalization, and decolonization since 1750. This full time post is available from 1st September 2017 to 31st August 2020 in the College Humanities on a fixed term basis.

The successful applicant will hold a PhD or equivalent in global or imperial history area and have an independent, internationally-recognised research programme in an active field of historical research related or complementary to existing Exeter strengths. He/she will be able to demonstrate the following qualities and characteristics;   a strong record in attracting research funding, or demonstrable potential to attract such funding, teamwork skills to work in collaboration with existing group members, an active and supportive approach to inter-disciplinary and multi-disciplinary research that will help to foster interactions and links both within the University and externally, the attitude and ability to engage in continuous professional development, the aptitude to develop familiarity with a variety of strategies to promote and assess learning and enthusiasm for delivering undergraduate programmes.

Interested? You can learn more via this job portal; applications must be submitted by February 15, 2017.

Toynbee Prize Foundation Names Aden Knaap Executive Director

The Toynbee Prize Foundation has elected Aden Knaap, a PhD candidate in History and the Knox Fellow at Harvard University, as the second Executive Director of the Toynbee Prize Foundation, effective June 1, 2017.

Knaap, a native of Australia, received  his BA in History (Hons I) from the University of Sydney in 2014, and an LLB (equivalent to a JD) from Sydney Law School in 2016. Prior to beginning his doctoral education at Harvard, he was a research associate with the Laureate Research Program in International History at the University of Sydney.

Knaap focuses in his work on international and imperial law, world government and international order, and the League of Nations and the United Nations. The author of several pieces in publications such as the European Journal of International Law, History in the MakingCosmopolites, and Honest History, he is at present working on several projects, including, in his words:

a book project on the history of international adjudication and arbitration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; a second project on conceptions of world federalism among individuals and civil society organizations of the early to mid-twentieth century, exploring questions of sovereignty, territoriality and jurisdiction; and an article on how early Australian internationalists adopted and adapted European ideas of the League of Nations, in a process I term ‘domesticating’ internationalism.’

In assuming the position of Executive Director, Knaap succeeds the Foundation’s first Executive Director, Timothy Nunan, who has held the position since 2014. Under Nunan’s leadership, the Foundation significantly expanded its web presence through the establishment of the Global History Blog and the Global History Forum. Additionally, the Foundation’s site now features contributions from an international team of Editors-at-Large. Nunan, formerly an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies, is since 2016 an Assistant Professor and Freigeist Fellow at the Center for Global History at the Freie Universität Berlin.

As the process of transition proceeds this spring, we hope to make further announcements about changes and new features to the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s website.

CFP: Third International Global History Student Conference (Berlin, May 20-21, 2017)

For graduate student readers of the Global History Blog, here’s a recent call for applications for a terrific graduate student-focused conference on global history at the Freie Universität Berlin:

In recent years, global history has become one of the most ambitious and most promising strands of historical research. The approach specifically targets relations, flows, and actors which transcend borders that for a long time had been assumed to be stable and impenetrable. It calls attention to the importance of transnational, trans-regional or trans-local connections and highlights the relevance of postcolonial theory to historiography.

But how can we actually “do global history” in practical terms? What are useful methods and techniques for researching and writing from a global perspective? How can global history complement but also challenge other disciplines; conversely, what critiques and new ideas can other disciplines bring to global history?

We – a group of students in the MA Global History at Humboldt University Berlin and Free University Berlin – would like to invite you to discuss these issues with us at the Global History Student Conference in Berlin by presenting your research projects to fellow students. This year the keynote speaker will be Prof. Michael Goebel, author of Anti-Imperial Metropolis (2015), winner of the AHA Jerry Bentley prize in World History (2016).

The field of global history is not limited to the modern period, and we invite scholars of the early modern, medieval or classical periods to consider submitting their research. Moreover, global history not only challenges geographical borders, it also tends to transcend disciplinary demarcations. Accordingly, we welcome proposals from any academic field that has points of contact with history (e.g. art history, area studies, social sciences, etc). Furthermore, since global history has only been part of the academic landscape for a few years (at least in terms of institutions and study programmes) we are all more or less beginners in this quest for interconnections, entanglements and conjunctures. We also explicitly invite undergraduate students: if you’ve ever written a paper or essay in this field, this is the perfect place to present it! The goal is to exchange experiences and to work together in an open and non-competitive way.

For more on how to submit proposals, read on:

Submit the registration form by the 1st of February 2017.

www.globalhistorystudentconference.wordpress.com/application

Upload your 300 word abstract as a PDF file by the 1st of February 2017.

www.globalhistorystudentconference.wordpress.com/application

The abstract should be entitled according to the following format: SurnameFirstnameShortTitle.pdf

On acceptance of your paper, please send us a 2000 word summary for us to review by 31st of March 2017.

We will be able to offer some financial support for transport and accommodation to participants coming from outside of Berlin. Please see our website for further details.

Readers curious about the conference should look into the conference’s website, with reviews of past conferences. Better yet, read the conference report posted by TPF Editor-at-Large Fatma Aladag here.

A New Deal for the Nuremberg Trial? Discussing the History of Crimes Against Humanity with Elizabeth Borgwardt

More and more social science research suggests that polities recovering from eras of mass atrocity do best with strategies that are both forward-looking and backward-looking. Forward-looking initiatives may include constitutional revisions, support for non-governmental organizations, and amnesties; backward-looking devices may include summary executions, war crimes trials, or truth commissions. While few would argue that we are in the twilight of impunity, scholars who study the generation and diffusion of norms look to recent settlements in Argentina and Columbia that stress increased accountability for past atrocities. The conviction of former Chadian dictator Hissène Habré by a Senegelese court for crimes against humanity and war crimes in early 2016 might be a harbinger of future, more regionally-grounded processes of international justice. Even more recently, the conviction of an ISIS militant for the destruction of ancient documents and religious sites in Mali has suggested an expansion zone for war crimes that would take in cultural destruction.

Critics of liberal internationalism, by contrast, are heralding the death of the human rights idea in light of the recent U.S. presidential election, Brexit, and the resurgence of ethnic nationalism in the West and elsewhere. Atrocity crimes seem to be a growth industry and botched humanitarian interventions are also doing a brisk business. These critics also ask how institutions such as the ICC and the UN tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda could have any legitimacy at all, as they are dominated by Western elites, with judges who are vetted and qualified to preside only after receiving indoctrination at Western law schools, while defendants are inevitably drawn from smaller, weaker countries, some of which are now turning their backs on international institutions in general and the ICC in particular. Law, skeptics say, has been unmasked as really “just politics;” that is, only capable of generating scenarios where illegitimate power expresses itself by means of adulterated law.

Convincing one side or the other of the moral legitimacy of today’s international tribunals may indeed be a rather fruitless exercise. In the meantime, however, it may be helpful to ask a more historically-informed set of questions, such as how some of the foundational ideas in international justice from the 19th century and before came to be institutionalized in the 20th century, or how the very format of trials came to be added to the spectrum of responses to various kinds of atrocities against civilians, or indeed how the idea of what might count as a “crime” in international law came to be debated and refined.

These are the questions at the heart of the research agenda of Elizabeth Borgwardt, an associate professor of history and law at Washington University in St. Louis, and a permanent faculty associate of the Center for American Studies at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universität Heidelberg. Borgwardt also recently served as the Richard and Ann Pozen Visiting Chair in Human Rights at the University of Chicago. Readers will probably best know Borgwardt as the author of the 2005 monograph A New Deal for the World: America’s Vision for Human Rights, published with the Belknap Press of Harvard University Press and co-winner of the Merle Curti award for best book in Intellectual History and of the Stuart Bernath Book award for best first book in U.S. foreign relations.

Now considered to be field-defining research in the then-novel specialization of human rights history, Borgwardt examined how the 1941 Roosevelt-Churchill Atlantic charter served as a kind of ideological blueprint for many of the young lawyers negotiating the draft charters of various wartime international institutions, notably the 1944 Bretton Woods agreements, the 1945 United Nations charter, and the 1945 Nuremberg charter. She explored how these new institutions were meant to generate a world order that would somehow “advance” human rights and, for the US officials involved, one which would entrench and extend U.S. influence. A major theme of New Deal for the World was also the role of unintended consequences, in that a variety of constituencies seized upon the vague and inspirational rhetoric in the Atlantic Charter and sought to use it for their own ends.

Now, however, Borgwardt is interested in a different set of questions related to human rights politics and ideas: how did “human rights” become a concept that even the most heinous regimes feel that they need to buy into, if only to pay it lip service? Why did ideas about sovereignty and individual accountability articulated in a courtroom in provincial Germany go on to affect larger systems of international justice? The answer to these questions — grounded, in Borgwardt’s case, in her background as both a lawyer and a historian — cannot but interest us in a world that continues to be scarred by human rights violations, both domestic and international.

The Toynbee Prize Foundation’s Executive Director, Timothy Nunan, recently had the opportunity to sit down with Professor Borgwardt during a visit to Harvard University to present an excerpt from her new manuscript, with the working title of The Nuremberg Idea: “Thinking Humanity” in History, Law & Politics, under contract with Alfred A. Knopf. We have reproduced below an edited transcript of that conversation.

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Jürgen Osterhammel’s 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture – “Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today”

Did you miss the Toynbee Prize Lecture at this year’s American Historical Association Annual Meeting? Or did our recap of Jürgen Osterhammel’s Prize Lecture leave you curious to see the full address?

Thanks to the generosity of Professor Osterhammel, we are able to make available the full text of the 2017 Toynbee Prize Lecture, “Arnold Toynbee and the Problems of Today” (published in Issue 60 of the German Historical Institute Bulletin). Additionally, readers may also read Toynbee Prize Foundation President Dominic Sachsenmaier‘s introductory remarks for Professor Osterhammel’s Lecture.

Readers interested in past Toynbee Prize Lectures may also wish to view Dipesh Chakrabarty’s 2015 Prize Lecture, also held at the AHA Annual Meeting.