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

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.

Writing the Histories of People in Motion: An Interview with Laura Madokoro

madokoro_pic.jpg

Laura Madokoro, McGill University

The movement of people across borders, seas and deserts saturate contemporary international news headlines. Refugees are often described in legalistic and sensationalistic terms: the assumption being that the search for refuge is an exceptional and out-of-character experience that should take place within the parameters of international law. Yet the language used to speak about the movement of people has as much to do with its historical context than the actual experiences of movement and migration. Indeed, the history of migration is an ancient one, while attempts to control and rationalize the movement of people only arose with the modern state.

In Elusive Refuge: Chinese Migrants in the Cold War (Harvard University Press, 2016) Laura Madokoro spotlights the history of migrants leaving the post-1949 People’s Republic of China for the then-British colony of Hong Kong and beyond. This movement—and the millions of people who fled China—was largely ignored, especially when compared to displaced peoples in Europe. In addition to recovering these stories, Dr. Madokoro argues that framed in the context of the Cold War they can tell us much about humanitarianism, geopolitics and the shadow of settler colonialism, from the Antipodes to North America and South Africa.

I recently met with Laura Madokoro in Montreal, where she works as a historian at McGill University. She discussed the politics of migration during the global Cold War, the revelatory nature of language when describing people in motion, and her current and future research plans. Elusive Refuge is her first book. You can follow her on twitter via @LauraMadokoro and keep an eye on the evolution of her current projects here.

–Martin Crevier…

CfP: Imperial Legacies of 1919 (Texas, April 2019)

The next year will see the culmination of a half decade of events celebrating and commemorating the centenary of the First World War – a year in which the focus will be on the conflict’s aftermaths and consequences. And at a time when much of the reassessment of the Great War has been concerned with contributions from and effects on colonial territories – which helped truly make the event a war that spanned the world – several conferences have and will be turning their gaze toward the impact of the conflagration on empire, broadly speaking, integrating its impact on such events that are also seeing their centenary as the Amritsar Massacre, the First Egyptian Revolution, and the Third Anglo-Afghan War.

In that vein, the University of North Texas, located in Denton – part of the Dallas-Forth Worth metropolitan area – has invited paper and panel proposals focused on the imperial legacies of the conflict.…

What We’re Reading This Week

Silk spinning, Chinese illustration, dated 1696. Source: https://www.historytoday.com/reviews/global-success-silk.

TIGER ZHIFU LI

Denise Fisher, “Explainer: New Caledonia’s Independence Referendum, and How It Could Impact the Region,” The Conversation.

Yogita Limaye, “Sri Lanka Crisis: Ousted PM ‘Has Confidence of Parliament’,” BBC News.

Charlotte Macdonald, “A Report Following Suffrage Week 2018,” The New Zealand Historical Association Blog.

James Croot, “They Shall Not Grow Old: Kiwi Screenings Confirmed for Sir Peter Jackson’s WWI Documentary,” Stuff.

YEHOR BRAILIAN

Steve Humphries, “The Last Survivors of the First World War,” Historyextra.

“‘Islam’ as an Epistemic Field: Imperial Entanglements and Orientalism in the German-Speaking World Since 1870,” Trafo.

James Macdonald, “The Curious Voyage of HMS Endeavour,” JSTOR Daily.

Evelyn Welch, “The Global Success of Silk,” History Today.

BOYD VAN DIJK

Damon Linker, “Did Max Boot Turn His Back on the Republican Party, or Did the Party Turn Its Back on Him?,” The New York Times.

Christopher Lee, “Fanon’s Fugitive Archive,” Africa Is a Country.

Richard Toye, “Fidelity Capitalism and the Airline Industry: An Interview with James Vernon,” Imperial & Global Forum.

Claudia Sadowski-Smith, “The New Immigrant Whiteness: Race, Neoliberalism, and Post-Soviet Migration to the United States,” New Books Network.…