Thinking globally about history
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Roundtable Panel—Stefan Link’s Forging Global Fordism: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and the Contest over the Industrial Order
Article | September 16, 2021

Roundtable Panel—Stefan Link’s Forging Global Fordism: Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and the Contest over the Industrial Order

While engaging with classic arguments in social theory as well as business and economic history, Stefan Link develops an alternative conception of Fordism through its transnational history, training his focus on international political economy—at times with an engineers’-eye-view. Forging Global Fordism tells the story of Fordist production's appeal and transfer to ideologically opposed contexts, Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. For Link, Fordism constituted a “dual use” technology amenable to mass consumption and military demand alike. A work of rich research in firm and state archives, FGF shifts gears between shop-floor dynamics and international negotiations, ideological debates and structural conditions. Contrary to many U.S. social and labor histories, Link depicts Henry Ford as an iconoclastic inheritor of Midwestern producer populism, whose works achieved the first mass production of technically sophisticated machinery and doctrine espoused the production of objects and the fulfillment of needs over the interests of finance. Upon this reinterpretation, which suggests liaisons to the binaries explored variously in Jeffrey Herf’s “reactionary modernism” and Moishe Postone’s analysis of modern antisemitism, he examines how European “postliberals” found Ford’s worldview alluring as a solution to the problem of the collapsed nineteenth-century order during the interwar period. We have invited three scholars with wide-ranging perspectives—Melissa Teixeira, Oscar Sanchez-Sibony, and Heidi Voskuhl—to offer responses to Forging Global Fordism. Stefan Link then replies to the roundtable contributions.

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Roundtable Panel—Priya Satia's Time’s Monster: How History Makes History
Article | June 1, 2021

Roundtable Panel—Priya Satia's Time’s Monster: How History Makes History

In her new book, Times Monster: How History Makes History, Priya Satia discusses the pivotal role of the discipline of History and its practioners in the British Empire’s legitimating enterprise. British historians, she argues, provided the language that not only defended imperial expansion but proclaimed it as a moral and ethical force in the world. The debris of those ideas continue to impact and shape our politics today – long after the formal end of colonial rule. However, though history could be a handmaiden to empire, Satia shows that historical thinking could also be used to question, subvert and ultimately delegitimize imperial claims. What results through her discussion is a rich intellectual history that spans over three hundred years of imperial history, taking the reader from the imperatives of the Enlightenment to the politics of decolonization and its aftermath. This spring we invited four scholars of varying expertise and interests to discuss this work. In what follows, each of them reflects on the book’s arguments and propositions, closed by a response from Professor Satia. We thank the participants for their time and engagement and hope that readers find the discussion thought-provoking.

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Archival Reflections—T.F. Johnson, “Self-Respecting” Refugee Relief, and a Petit-Bourgeois Plan for World Peace
Article | May 27, 2021

Archival Reflections—T.F. Johnson, “Self-Respecting” Refugee Relief, and a Petit-Bourgeois Plan for World Peace

A new Archival Reflection by Christopher Szabla on refugees and world order and the unique figure of T.F. Johnson of the League of Nations. "I came across Johnson’s memoir, International Tramps: From Chaos to Permanent World Peace, while researching my dissertation on attempts to govern all global migration at the level of international law and institutions. Refugees were a naturally important element of that story. But although there was already a robust literature on the history of international refugee aid and institutions, few key individuals in that history had been singled out for extended treatment...Yet among them were also more obscure figures like Johnson."

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Nagorno-Karabakh: The endless conflict in the Black Garden—Backgrounds and perspectives of a seemingly “unsolvable” dispute
Article | May 20, 2021

Nagorno-Karabakh: The endless conflict in the Black Garden—Backgrounds and perspectives of a seemingly “unsolvable” dispute

By Toynbee Prize Foundation Trustee Roland Benedikter

Following U.S. President Joe Biden’s April 2021 recognition of the mass murder of Armenians in the 20th century as genocide, there is new movement in the Caucasus. Both Turkey and Armenia are involved in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, the “mountainous black garden” in the South Caucasus. In 2020, the latest war between Azerbaijan and Armenia occurred in a seemingly endless history of conflict. The situation seems intractable to many. The war over the territory has hardened the fronts and plunged Armenia, the losing nation, into chaos. Many questions remain unresolved. Nevertheless, there are (limited) prospects, including the diplomatic initiatives of the OSCE as well as individual states such as Russia. A very special institutional-regulatory model of pacification has been repeatedly brought into play since the 1990s: South Tyrol. Territorial autonomy there has transformed ethnic conflicts into institutionalized coexistence. The question is how realistic it is to adapt this model in the Caucasus.

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Roundtable Panel—Eric Weitz's A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States
Article | November 3, 2020

Roundtable Panel—Eric Weitz's A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States

Over the last decade, we have witnessed a sustained increase in the scholarship on the origins and history of human rights. Eric Weitz’s A World Divided: The Global Struggle for Human Rights in the Age of Nation-States deepens this historiographical corpus, presenting us with an expansive history that covers over three hundred years and spans the world. The book examines the complex politics of human rights history. It exposes the paradoxical relationship between human rights and nation-states whereby states identify as guarantors of the rights of citizens while also exercising the power to exclude groups from the remit of such a guarantee. The scope of the book lends itself to rich discussion, as evidenced by the diversity of comments it elicited from the participants in this panel. Three eminent scholars of diverse historiographical interest reflect on the book’s central themes. Followed by a response from Professor Weitz.

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Queering the Pandemic
Article | July 22, 2020

Queering the Pandemic

The commonly-accepted COVID-19 narrative is that those most at risk are people with underlying medical conditions, immunocompromised people, and the elderly. While biological factors such as immune function and age seem to be paramount for determining whether someone who contracts the virus will become critically ill or not, social factors are equally as important. By centering queer and trans experiences of COVID and analyzing these in the context of LGBTQ history, Eleanor Franklin and Aaron Wiegand's "Queering the Pandemic" project gives a platform for future historians to understand the pandemic from the view point of a group that has historically been forgotten and left at the margins of history.

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Archival Reflections—Dewi Sukarno Goes to London, or How to Handle an Indonesian VIP during Konfrontasi
Article | June 22, 2020

Archival Reflections—Dewi Sukarno Goes to London, or How to Handle an Indonesian VIP during Konfrontasi

Archival Reflections

A single folder of British Foreign Office records (FO 371/180366) held at the National Archives in Kew details the private visit to the UK by the third wife of Indonesian President Sukarno, Dewi, in June 1965. British officers, determined to make a good first impression on Dewi to soften her bellicose husband, quickly found themselves attending to out-of-the-ordinary tasks: scrambling to find a “young enough” companion for having tea with Dewi, infiltrating a wedding reception to gather information on her, and even disposing of an unwanted gift that Dewi brought for none other than Queen Elizabeth II.

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INTERVIEW—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Dominic Sachsenmaier on China, geopolitics, and global history post-COVID-19
Article | June 22, 2020

INTERVIEW—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Dominic Sachsenmaier on China, geopolitics, and global history post-COVID-19

Toynbee Coronavirus Series—A global historical view of the coronavirus pandemic: Interview with Dominic Sachsenmaier.

"The concept of ‘deglobalization’ has been gaining currency during the past five years, and already before 2020 there was a corresponding pressure on some aspects of international academic life, particularly the humanities. For instance, Sino-Western collaborations in the academic sector came under much pressure—both from an increasingly authoritarian government in China and from a Western public that increasingly felt threatened by greater Chinese academic influence. What I observe right now is that there are a growing number of voices that see any kind of collaboration with China as highly problematic, if not altogether endangering the academic ethos and a supposedly intact academic community. What I am concerned about is that if this type of deglobalization—of which Sino-Western collaboration patterns are only one element among several—continues, we could potentially witness a return to regionalism in the humanities." Toynbee Prize Foundation President Dominic Sachsenmaier on China's global role, the academy, and deglobalization trends post-COVID-19.

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INTERVIEW—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Dipesh Chakrabarty on zoonotic pathogens, human life, and pandemic in the age of the Anthropocene
Article | June 17, 2020

INTERVIEW—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Dipesh Chakrabarty on zoonotic pathogens, human life, and pandemic in the age of the Anthropocene

Toynbee Coronavirus Series—A global historical view of the coronavirus pandemic: Interview with Dipesh Chakrabarty.

"Many Earth system scientists, evolutionary biologists, and Anthropocene scholars have been reminding us that the global economy is destroying bio-diversity and that, on human scales of time, biodiversity is a non-renewable resource that is critical to the flourishing of all life, including ours. It is time we debated the kind of civilization humans would want to live in. The Cold War battle between capitalism and socialism is well and truly dead. But that does not mean that the question of debating capitalism has lost any of its importance." Dipesh Chakrabarty on the pandemic, zoonotic pathogens, migrancy, and globalization in the age of the Anthropocene.

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Toynbee Coronavirus Series—Global History Forum: Jeremy Adelman, Or Rosenboim, Jamie Martin, Cindy Ewing, and Akita Shigeru
Article | June 16, 2020

Toynbee Coronavirus Series—Global History Forum: Jeremy Adelman, Or Rosenboim, Jamie Martin, Cindy Ewing, and Akita Shigeru

Toynbee Coronavirus Series—A Global Historical View of the Pandemic: Forum

Living through historically unprecedented times has strengthened the Toynbee Prize Foundation's commitment to thinking globally about history and to representing that perspective in the public sphere. In this multimedia series on the COVID-19 pandemic, we will be bringing global history to bear in thinking through the raging coronavirus and the range of social, intellectual, economic, political, and scientific crises triggered and aggravated by it.

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INTERVIEW—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Erez Manela on the WHO, smallpox eradication, and the need for renewed internationalism
Article | June 15, 2020

INTERVIEW—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Erez Manela on the WHO, smallpox eradication, and the need for renewed internationalism

Toynbee Coronavirus Series—A global historical view of the coronavirus pandemic: Interview with Erez Manela.

"Out of inertia, the US remains the biggest contributor, but diplomatically and politically it doesn’t care. What replaces it are organizations like the Gates Foundation, which in some ways, though not all ways, represents a return to the inter-war period, when the leading spender on global health was the Rockefeller Foundation. You can say all sorts of bad things about the WHO, but the one thing the WHO does is it gives some sort of voice to small nations and was designed to do precisely that." Erez Manela on the concept of global health, the WHO, smallpox eradication, and the need for renewed internationalism amid the pandemic.

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The Philippine Revolution constructs ‘Asia’ and Civilization from the periphery
Article | June 12, 2020

The Philippine Revolution constructs ‘Asia’ and Civilization from the periphery

In tracing the intellectual genealogy of the Philippine nation, Nicole CuUnjieng Aboitiz excavated what turned out to be far more complex theoretical and historical bases to the construction not only of the Filipino, but also of Asia, race, and a concept of place that could challenge imperial claims of rightful sovereignty. Her book Asian Place, Filipino Nation: A Global Intellectual History of the Philippine Revolution, 1887-1912 investigates precisely what ground the Philippine nation built itself upon intellectually, excavating its neglected cosmopolitan and transnational Asian moorings in particular, in order to reconnect Philippine history to that of Southeast and East Asia. It also recovers the “periphery” of the discourse of Pan-Asianism, which was built on material aid and the fantasy and affect of transnational anti-colonial Asian solidarity. The book seeks to make that periphery legible to the center and to expand our discursive, East Asia-centric understanding of Pan-Asianism more generally.

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VIDEO—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Selçuk Esenbel on the pandemic and living with nature
Article | June 12, 2020

VIDEO—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Selçuk Esenbel on the pandemic and living with nature

VIDEO—Toynbee Coronavirus Series—A Global Historical View of the Pandemic: Historians' Statements.

We spoke with Toynbee Prize Foundation Trustee Selçuk Esenbel, Professor of History at Boğaziçi University and the founding Director of the Asian Studies Center at the same institution. She earned her PhD in Japanese history at Columbia University, and her research interests center on Japan and the world of Islam, Japanese pan-Asianism, and modernization in Japan and Ottoman Turkey. Esenbel has received numerous awards, including the Order of the Rising Sun.

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VIDEO—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Priscilla Wald on structural inequality and contagion
Article | June 5, 2020

VIDEO—Toynbee Coronavirus Series: Priscilla Wald on structural inequality and contagion

VIDEO—Toynbee Coronavirus Series—A Global Historical View of the Pandemic: Historians' Statements. 

We sat down with Priscilla Wald, R. Florence Brinkley Distinguished Professor of English at Duke University. She teaches U.S. literature and culture from the mid-18th to mid-20th centuries. Her research centers on the narratives of medicine, science, science fiction, the environment, and law. Her most recent book, Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative, examines the idea of contagion and its evolution, at the intersection of medicine and myth.

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