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Memorial Symposium for Sir Christopher Bayly, St. Catharine’s College, Cambridge, May 21, 2016

If you have been following our blog recently, you’ll surely have noticed our announcement of the posthumous awarding of the 2016 Toynbee Prize to Sir Christopher Bayly at this year’s American Historical Association Annual Meeting. Bayly’s passing less than a year ago at the age of 69 was a profound loss for colleagues and friends around…

The Emancipators: A Conversation with Amalia Ribi Forclaz on The Politics of Anti-Slavery Movements and European International History

When did slavery end? For American or British readers of the Global History Forum, the answer to this question, at least answered within the framework of their respective countries, is easy. Human chattel slavery ended in the United States, we are told, in 1865 with the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment to the US Constitution, while the more enlightened British abolished slavery within the British Empire in 1833.

Yet globally, the phenomenon of chattel slavery (humans-as-property) and related forms of exploitation, like sex trafficking or the trafficking of children of course persisted long after slavery was abolished in Britain and the United States. Slavery is today illegal in every country in the world, but modern anti-slavery organizations reckon that there are still at least 10 to 30 million people in the world who are owned by other humans, to say nothing of much larger numbers of persons de facto enslaved through some form of debt bondage (itself legally abolished in much of the world, but still present). We may regard slavery through black and white images of plantation labor, in short, but slavery remains a big business today, with estimated global activity amounting to $35 billion, more wealth than half of all countries existent today.

Slavery must end—try finding someone who disagrees with this. But as Amalia Ribi Forclaz shows in her new book, Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism 1880-1940, the distance between ambition and reality, not to mention the thorny political questions that the move to eliminate slavery everywhere in the planet raises, is not new. As Ribi shows in her book, late 19th and early 20th century activists were united, too, on the need to eliminate slavery in the world, especially in the African continent for which so many Europeans were scrambling at the time. By the 1920s and 1930s, the campaign against slavery in Africa brought together Catholics and Protestants, Britons and Italians, liberals and fascists, and many others, and found serious institutional backing both through the League of Nations and European states committed to the cause.

Amalia Ribi's Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism, 1880-1940 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Amalia Ribi’s Humanitarian Imperialism: The Politics of Anti-Slavery Activism, 1880-1940 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

By the late 1930s, however, the international movement had fractured over the Italian invasion of Ethiopia—remembered in retrospect as a breakdown of the League’s collective security function, but justified by both Italian Duce Benito Mussolini and many an anti-slavery activist in terms of eliminating slavery in that independent African kingdom. The dream of a world without slaves captured the imagination of many, but, as Ribi shows, it raised intractable questions about the place of European humanitarian action in a world that would be not only post-slavery, but also post-colonial.

We were pleased to connect with Ribi, who is an Assistant Professor of International History at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva, over the phone recently to discuss her new book, its lessons, and its relevance to a world in which slavery remains—as an economic phenomenon and moral outrage, if not to the same mobilizing extent it did during the years that Ribi’s research focuses on. How did this waxing and waning take place, and what might it tell us about the history of humanitarianism? These and other questions were on our mind as we spoke with Amalia for this installment of the Global History Forum.

Becoming Trans-German: Transnational, Transdisciplinary, Transgender, Transhuman (Free University of Berlin, June 23-25, 2016)

For those readers already looking ahead to their summer plans, here’s one more workshop to consider. At the Free University of Berlin, the Berlin Program for Advanced German and European Studies is hosting a conference called “Becoming Trans-German: Transnational, Transdisciplinary, Transgender, Transhuman” from June 23-25, 2016. In spite of the name, the conference is directed…

Lecturership in International History, University of Leeds

For those readers on the job market this year, the School of History of University of Leeds has recently announced a Lecturership in International History after 1945 beginning this September. The position is especially advertised for specialists on the foreign relations of the United States, but all are encouraged to apply. Read on: Applications are…

Putting the Margin in the Center: Discussing Transnational and Australian History with Professor Fiona Paisley

Fiona Paisley was born in Scotland, but she received her university training in Australia. Based in Brisbane, Australia, she is currently a Professor in the History Program at Griffith University. Our latest guest to the Global History Forum, Fiona Paisley, specializes in international history. Her work is about internationalism, settler colonialism, gender and race in the first half of the twentieth century, from an Australian perspective. Professor Paisley won a Magarey Medal for her biography of Anthony Martin Fernando, an Aboriginal protestor who lived for the second half of his life outside of Australia. The book is called The Lone Protestor: AM Fernando in Australia and London. Professor Paisley and Tiger Li, an Editor-at-Large at the Toynbee Prize Foundation, discuss that book in the second half of our interview.

Tiger Li (TL): Professor Paisley, when did you get interested in history?

Fiona Paisley (FP): Looking back gives me the opportunity to think about why I was interested in history from childhood. I spent my first school years in England, and I do remember as a child feeling that history was all around me. Coming to Australia made me realise that “deep time history” is everywhere about us as well, even if the traces are harder to see. The relationship between the distant and more recent pasts of occupation dawned slowly for me as a young adolescent in a settler society like Australia. By the time I was working on my PhD, I started to see more clearly the connections between British colonialism and settler societies and I used my interest in history to try to understand better what it means to be a settler colonial and thus implicated in that ongoing process.

Professor Fiona Paisley (Griffith University), our latest guest to the Global History Forum

Professor Fiona Paisley (Griffith University), our latest guest to the Global History Forum

TL: Did you have a transnational perspective from a very young age?

FP: For a long time, global or imperial history  positioned Australia at the margins. Transnational history has allowed us to put the margin into the centre. Being new to Australia as a young person gave me an outsider’s perspective;  I found that studying transnational or world history from Australian perspective is a good way to reframe my approach to global history. Moreover, thinking about perspective and location  through your own biography can help reveal connections between places and times otherwise overlooked, veiled, or forgotten. I guess it can be helpful if you move around a lot as you grow up. You feel you are not so much a member of one particular nation or national story but find yourself affiliated with many different places.

TL: I think it is something that I really understand, because I do not feel I belong to anywhere, either. I sometimes feel I am a global citizen. Maybe you can belong to more than one place.

FP: There are many ways to reframe what we mean by history through the transnational approach. On the other hand, simply moving around is not in itself an enlightening experience. In the end, you have to take responsibilities for where you are. And for the historian, that means working in the archives.…

Post-Doctoral Fellowship, Perry World House (University of Pennsylvania)

For those of you looking for post-doctoral fellowships with later deadlines, here’s another neat opportunity. At the University of Pennsylvania, the Global Innovations Institute at Perry World House has announced its inaugural post-doctoral program, part of the larger remit of Perry World House to “connect Penn to the international policy world through research, student engagement,…

Postdoctoral Position in “The Contemporary History of Historiography” (Trier University, Germany)

Here’s a recent attractive job posting, especially for those readers who have been engaging with the Toynbee Prize Foundation’s programming at the recent American Historical Association meeting on the history of global history as a discipline. At the University of Trier (located in the scenic wine country of western Germany and near Luxembourg, Belgium, and France),…

CENFAD Fellow in International History, Temple University

Looking for a position in international history in a great city? The Department of History at Temple University has recently announced a call for applications for a one-year Fellowship affiliated with the Center for the Study of Force and Diplomacy, a research center devoted to the historic and contemporary use of force and diplomacy in a global context.…

Sir Christopher Bayly Named 2016 Toynbee Prize Winner

The Toynbee Prize Foundation has selected Sir Christopher Alan Bayly as the honorary recipient of the 2016 Toynbee Prize. The Prize, given every other year to a distinguished practitioner of global history, was awarded posthumously at a session of the American Historical Association’s Annual Meeting in Atlanta on January 9, 2016. There, Toynbee Prize Foundation…