Thinking globally about history
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Archival Reflections—Insights from the Vast and Rich Resources at the Barings Archives
Article | January 31, 2023

Archival Reflections—Insights from the Vast and Rich Resources at the Barings Archives

The House of Barings was established in 1762 and started out by trading on its own account, and on joint account with other merchants, buying and selling commodities and other goods in British and overseas markets. They also acted as London agents for overseas merchants, arranging shipping and insurance, making and collecting payments. Over time, Barings reduced their stakes in commodity trading due to its speculative and risky nature, and heavily ventured into the work of issuing securities for governments and businesses, especially railway companies. Barings also acted as paying agents, being particularly associated with Argentine, United States, Canadian and Russian governments.

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Review—Schooling the System: A History of Black Women Teachers
Article | January 31, 2023

Review—Schooling the System: A History of Black Women Teachers

Funké Aladejebi’s seminal manuscript, Schooling the System, is a critical racial and gendered intervention in Canadian history that demonstrates how the oral narratives of Black women challenged the colonial legacy of state-building policies in postwar Ontarian education systems and radically contested the post-racial misconception of benign whiteness in Canada. Through twenty-six oral interviews with Black Canadian and Caribbean women, Aladejebi highlights the influence and challenges of Black female teachers who were integrated into the postwar Canadian educational system. She supplements her oral narratives with documented archival research including legislative acts, government and school board reports, and conference proceedings. The term “schooling the system” expresses the ways in which Black women engaged in community-oriented activism through educational initiatives to create meaningful systemic change and racial awakening in Canadian society.

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Roundtable Panel—On Barak’s Powering Empire: How Coal Made the Middle East and Sparked Global Carbonization
Article | January 12, 2023

Roundtable Panel—On Barak’s Powering Empire: How Coal Made the Middle East and Sparked Global Carbonization

How can we re-conceptualize histories of energy, crucially necessary to understanding our times, and place them in longer, atypical timelines? We brought together scholars of different backgrounds and from different locations to begin thinking through this question on the heels of Powering Empire and to expand the prevailing conversation on the global history of energy more broadly.

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Review—Ploughshares and Swords: India's Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War
Article | January 12, 2023

Review—Ploughshares and Swords: India's Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War

The story of India’s nuclear program has been told many times and by many scholars. Researchers have been fortunate for works by security strategists, journalists, anthropologists, and political scientists. But few of these works were historical studies and even fewer incorporated the primary sources of archives from multiple countries. Historian Jayita Sarkar’s Ploughshares and Swords: India’s Nuclear Program in the Global Cold War is the work that scholars of India’s nuclear program have been waiting for; it will be required reading for historians of several different fields – foreign relations, science and technology, and decolonization – to name just a few. India’s nuclear program possesses a large historiography, but Sarkar produced a tome that scholars of the program cannot miss but also a welcoming work for readers interested in Cold War history and the rise of the developing world post-World War II. It is light on jargon, thorough in its examination of how independent India became a scientific power, and comprehensive in how it carries the story to the present. Readers will understand the decisions and stakes that were present when India debated the bomb and finally took the leap as a nuclear weapons state. Sarkar’s book asks whether nuclear programs help chip away at a nation’s democracy and instill anti-democratic elements where safety and security trump peace and prosperity.

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Roundtable Panel—Cécile Vidal’s Caribbean New Orleans: Rethinking the Interconnected Nature of the Global North and South Through a Transcolonial Study of Racial Slavery in the French Atlantic Empire
Article | November 23, 2022

Roundtable Panel—Cécile Vidal’s Caribbean New Orleans: Rethinking the Interconnected Nature of the Global North and South Through a Transcolonial Study of Racial Slavery in the French Atlantic Empire

In her most recent book Caribbean New Orleans: Race, Empire, and the Making of a Slave Society, Dr. Cécile Vidal offers an alternative picture of New Orleans as a transatlantic outpost and bastion of racial openness that linked the French Caribbean to southern North America. It raises important questions on how race and slavery can be used to explain the development of colonial slave societies. How did trans-colonial systems of slavery ultimately shape the social order of New Orléans during a period of rapid geopolitical evolution? How can we rethink the history of race and racialization in the formation of the French Atlantic world? In what ways can the intersections between legal, cultural, and sociopolitical histories be used to map the intricate networks of slavery and colonization throughout various parts of the global French Empire? To answer these questions, and many others, it is a pleasure to welcome two leading scholars on race and chattel slavery in the French Atlantic Empire to a roundtable discussion on Caribbean New Orleans.

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On Empires and Global Cities: A Conversation with Anne-Isabelle Richard, Catia Antunes, and Cyrus Schayegh
Article | October 5, 2022

On Empires and Global Cities: A Conversation with Anne-Isabelle Richard, Catia Antunes, and Cyrus Schayegh

What role did cities play in imperial expansion and globalization? Despite massive urbanisation and a revolution in transport technologies and systems, did the modern period see a decrease in truly global cities? Have some cities become less global over time? What about global villages? Can we think of a small Dutch town “with families that drink coffee and have some cotton clothing” as a global place? These questions are at the heart of debates in the growing field of global urban history. This is the transcript of the conversation that these questions inspired between four leading scholars with expertise in different world regions and time periods working at the intersection of global and urban history. They include the Global Urban History Project’s Dries Lyna Radboud University Nijmegen) and Cyrus Schayegh Graduate Institute Geneva), along with Leiden University’s Anne-Isabelle Richard and Catia Antunes.

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Nixon in China: Back to Bretton Woods
Article | June 22, 2022

Nixon in China: Back to Bretton Woods

Often heralded as marking the start of a significant shift in the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) relationship with the world, Richard Nixon’s journey to that country in February 1972 came in the midst of an on-going effort and vision: China’s (long-held) desire to be a part of the global economy. While the 50th anniversary of that visit is important in terms of Sino-American relations, it also represents the beginning of the less-discussed history of China’s engagement with multilateral economic institutions, particularly, with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank—the Bretton Woods institutions. What consequences did the Nixon trip produce in that regard? Was it as decisive as it was for Sino-American relations?

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Roundtable—In the Land of Forgetfulness: History, Memory, and Culture in Disney’s Encanto
Article | March 30, 2022

Roundtable—In the Land of Forgetfulness: History, Memory, and Culture in Disney’s Encanto

The Disney film Encanto aspires to provide a new visual and acoustic vocabulary of what it means to be Colombian for moviegoers in this country, Latin America, and beyond. As such, it offers a promising entry point into a more sustained scholarly inquiry into questions of representation, memory, and culture in global history. Of course, the movie does not aspire to offer a “truthful” representation of Colombia’s troubled historyin fact, its ambiguous chronology and geography show that the Encanto’s Colombia is as much imagined as it is real. But, at the same, how the film curates and packages certain elements of Colombia’s past for global audiences provides much food for thought. In its narrative, some saw a wider metaphor about the state of Unitedstatesean fragmentary politics; others saw a call for the reimagination of “romantic love,” a meditation on the “crushing weight of tradition,” or a commodified and whitewashed “Disneyfication” of Latin American cultures that caters to the growing market share of Hispanic-Unitedstateseans. We convened a roundtable with three Colombian(ist) scholars to tackle these and many other questions.

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VIDEO—2021-2022 Toynbee Prize Lecture: Kenneth Pomeranz, "Finding, and Hiding, World History on the Frontiers of Qing China"
Article | March 8, 2022

VIDEO—2021-2022 Toynbee Prize Lecture: Kenneth Pomeranz, "Finding, and Hiding, World History on the Frontiers of Qing China"

The 2021-2022 Toynbee Prize Winner Kenneth Pomeranz (University of Chicago) delivered the Toynbee Prize Lecture at the AHA on February 25, 2022 on "Finding, and Hiding, World History on the Frontiers of Qing China."

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Review—Are port cities the keys that can unlock the history of globalization?
Article | February 7, 2022

Review—Are port cities the keys that can unlock the history of globalization?

Unlocking the World can sometimes feel like two histories patched together. One concerns globalization writ large, focused on the innovation of steam, while the other focuses on port cities and how they navigated and channeled this world. The distinction recalls Braudel’s parsing of the surface waves of history, on the one hand, and its deeper currents, on the other. Their relationship in this volume, however, can feel uneasy. The book’s attempt to wrestle with the whole history of global interaction can be inventive, but embraces such a broad subject that it can be unclear how much is meant as an argument of its own or as background. Either way, this broader lens serves as a necessary connective tissue for some of the book’s other sections, which focus deeply on port cities. This necessity calls into question one of Darwin’s main theses: that ports, being the sites where “steam globalization” passed most intensely, were also the sites through which such globalization could, therefore, best be understood. “The port city in Asia, Africa, Australasia and the Americas was the entry point through which poured the money, manufactures, ideas and people, as well as the physical force, that flowed out from Europe,” he asserts, “and through which it extracted the ‘returns’ of tribute, raw materials, profits and rents…The port city was where all the varied agents of globalization encountered a local society. We can see there in close-up the pattern of acceptance or of adaptation and resistance to change; the terms on which inland regions were drawn into the port city’s web; and how far it was able to re-shape the culture and politics of its emerging hinterland.” To what extent does such a lens really provide a window on globalization as a whole?

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Roundtable Panel—Ussama Makdisi's Age of Coexistence: The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern Arab World
Article | February 2, 2022

Roundtable Panel—Ussama Makdisi's Age of Coexistence: The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern Arab World

The image of the Middle East as a place plagued with endless sectarian strife and communal violence is an enduring one. These representations were, of course, an integral part of the oriental repertoire of European colonial powers. But in our own times, the proliferation of these images and their attendant discourse has been no less ubiquitous. Especially since the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003, sectarianism has been discussed, within and without the academy, as the defining problem of the region. But what does a persistent concern with the question of conflicted division occlude? For Ussama Makdisi, the answer is a parallel history of co-existence. His recent book, Age of Coexistence: The Ecumenical Frame and the Making of the Modern World, offers a corrective to contemporary accounts of communal difference and divide—which he considers a myth “conflating contemporary political identifications with far older religious solidarities”. Makdisi insists that we place this complex history in a larger global context. The question of political (re)-ordering of a diverse polis was not unique in the rapidly modernizing world of the nineteenth century and was not unique to the Ottoman Empire—it was one confronted by all states and societies. The attempts by the late Ottoman state and its constituents to navigate ethnic and racial difference while developing new forms of political associations, is what he terms as the “ecumenical frame”. The book tells the stories of these political imaginations through a narrative that takes us geographically, from Anatolia to the Balkans and from Palestine to Lebanon, and temporally from the Ottoman Age to the end of the twentieth century. Its breadth and intellectual ambition welcome extensive engagement. Last Fall, we invited three imminent scholars to share their reflections on this work. These follow below and end with a response by Professor Makdisi. We are so grateful to our panelists for taking out the time to participate in this panel and trust that readers will find the the discussion invigorating.

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Review—In a Sea of Empires: Networks and Crossings in the Revolutionary Caribbean
Article | January 10, 2022

Review—In a Sea of Empires: Networks and Crossings in the Revolutionary Caribbean

Jeppe Mulich’s In a Sea of Empires addresses how to bridge the local and the global, an issue central to global history since its birth as a subfield. The author rests his approach upon a bold claim: interimperial microregions are crucibles of early globalization. To prove how the microregion “provides an analytical ideal-type that is pertinent to a variety of historical contexts,” Mulich advances his thesis on two levels, one theoretical and the other historical. To start, he constructs a framework for interpreting microregions from a set of thematic categories ranging from the political to the geographical. Putting this concept into practice, Mulich focuses on the Leeward Islands, a Caribbean archipelago, from 1783 to 1834. In doing so, Mulich brilliantly demonstrates the Leeward Islands’ historical importance and provides a typology for microregions on a global scale.

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Review—Made in Britain: Nation and Emigration in Nineteenth-Century America
Article | November 23, 2021

Review—Made in Britain: Nation and Emigration in Nineteenth-Century America

In a 2006 interview, Sven Beckert lamented that in his field, nineteenth century United States history, “we still have a real dearth of studies that explore core themes in US history from a transnational perspective.” Fourteen years later, Stephen Tuffnell’s Made in Britain is among the latest in the growing body of scholarship dedicated to filling this lacuna. Contrary to popular opinion, Tuffnell posits that the US should be seen not only as a nation of immigration, but also of emigration. Indeed, American emigrants to Britain occupied a vital place in the US imagination during the nineteenth century; in constructing versions of themselves in relation to their former colonial rulers, they produced a novel vision of America and its position in the world. For Tuffnell, denationalized Americans exerted a key role in this period because they confused traditional boundaries of belonging. Living in England, but still maintaining bonds to their homeland, these figures engendered transnational networks of power and knowledge. Whether establishing new businesses in London, shipping goods from Liverpool, or frequenting diplomatic circles, these travelers provided inroads for their country of birth to reach a global stage.

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Review—Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles
Article | October 20, 2021

Review—Race Women Internationalists: Activist-Intellectuals and Global Freedom Struggles

Umoren’s international history features three main protagonists – Jamaican poet Una Marson, Martiniquan writer and journalist Paulette Nardal, and American civil rights activist and anthropologist Eslanda Robeson. Building on works by Marc Matera and Jennifer Boitten among others, Umoren tells a story about the “black diasporic networks and organizations in the United States, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean that emerged in the wake of large-scale black migration from the late nineteenth century.” She takes us through the overlapping of world of her characters to showcase the involvement of Black women in the movements and conversations that defined twentieth-century international politics. Umoren coins the term “race woman internationalist” to indicate those Black women who “were public figures (and) who helped to solve racial, gendered and other forms of inequality facing black people across the African diaspora.” These women, like many others of their generation, owed their mobility to common historical phenomena and were embedded in common networks. Their lives sometimes intersected, and they populated common physical and imaginative geographies. A Review by Editor-at-Large Zaib un Nisa Aziz.

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