Thinking globally about history
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Dancing in the Battle for the Mantle of the Politically “Modern”: An Interview with Victoria Philips
Interviews | November 14, 2022

Dancing in the Battle for the Mantle of the Politically “Modern”: An Interview with Victoria Philips

Victoria Philips's recent book provides an innovative and relevant example of the “politics of antipolitics”: the life and works of Martha Graham. Through a carefully knitted narrative that spans decades of touring, Philips provides us with a detailed account of the role that the “Highest Priestess of Modern Dance in America” played during the Cold War. Drawing from archival sources all around the world, Philips captures the paradoxes, tensions, and contradictions that surrounded Graham’s involvement in a series of dance tours around the world in which she served as an emissary of Unitedstatesean soft power, in the midst of a international struggle for the mantle of political modernity. Graham’s project was deeply anchored in a modernist understanding of time. But as Philips shows, the promise of modernity was full of ambiguities and ambivalence.

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Ana María Otero-Cleves and writing about the Global from the Periphery: Interview with the Winner of the Toynbee First Book Manuscript Workshop Competition (ENGLISH)
Interviews | September 20, 2022

Ana María Otero-Cleves and writing about the Global from the Periphery: Interview with the Winner of the Toynbee First Book Manuscript Workshop Competition (ENGLISH)

2022 Winner of the Toynbee First Book Manuscript Workshop competition: Ana María Otero-Cleves (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)

Manuscript Commentators: Toynbee Trustee Jeremy Adelman (Princeton University); Jeremy Prestholdt (University of California, San Diego); Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck, University of London)

Book manuscript: Cherished Consumers: Global Connections, Local Consumption, and Foreign Commodities in Nineteenth-Century Colombia (provisional)

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Cómo escribir Historia Global desde América Latina: Entrevista con Ana María Otero-Cleves ganadora del Toynbee First Book Manuscript Workshop Competition (2022) (ESPAÑOL)
Interviews | September 20, 2022

Cómo escribir Historia Global desde América Latina: Entrevista con Ana María Otero-Cleves ganadora del Toynbee First Book Manuscript Workshop Competition (2022) (ESPAÑOL)

Ganadora 2022: Ana María Otero-Cleves (Universidad de los Andes, Colombia)

Comentaristas del manuscrito: Toynbee Trustee Jeremy Adelman (Princeton University); Jeremy Prestholdt (University of California, San Diego); Frank Trentmann (Birkbeck, University of London)

Título del manuscrito: Cherished Consumers: Global Connections, Local Consumption, and Foreign Commodities in Nineteenth-Century Colombia

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Inclusion and Exclusion in International Ordering: An Interview with Glenda Sluga
Interviews | September 20, 2022

Inclusion and Exclusion in International Ordering: An Interview with Glenda Sluga

As the so-called international order comes under increasing pressure in Ukraine and beyond, Toynbee Prize Foundation President Glenda Sluga's book The Invention of International Order: Remaking Europe after Napoleon invites us to engage with the “two centuries of multilateral principles, practices, and expectations” to understand the promises and limits of our contemporary arrangements. It places the recent meeting between Macron and Putin in the context of the rise and consolidation of “a new professional, procedural, and bureaucratic approach to diplomacy, based on the sociability of men." After all, our modern notions of international “politics” or “society” were forged in the aftermath of a previous European-wide conflagration that had France and Russia at its helm: the Napoleonic wars. Others have dismissed the post-Napoleonic diplomatic constellation as reactionary or have lauded it as protoliberal. Sluga, above all, is interested in questioning it. She invites us to: reflect on for whom this order has been built; push against the ways it narrows our perspective; and grapple with its inner tensions and contradictions. By taking women, non-Europeans, and “non-state” actors seriously as political agents, she shows how bankers, Jews, or ambassadrices were ironically crucial in the making of a system that came to exclude them from the historical record. We attempt to make sense of these paradoxes, contradictions, and ambiguities of international ordering in this interview.

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How China’s Environments Changed its Modern History: An interview with Micah Muscolino
Interviews | March 14, 2022

How China’s Environments Changed its Modern History: An interview with Micah Muscolino

The environment in China is usually seen as the victim of unfettered industrial production and global consumption starting with the country’s ‘reform and opening up’ period in the late 1970s. But to what extent does this periodization and the logics of the Anthropocene that rest upon it make sense against the longer historical record? A wave of scholarship has scrutinized the abstract idea of the environment in China’s restless history over the past two centuries. Bracketing the origins of the today’s environmental crises exclusively within the globalization debate is to miss something important. Namely, ecological thinking featured prominently in the country’s experiences with modernization, colonialism, and nation-building starting in the long 19th century. Micah Muscolino’s work is a great example that rethinks the conventional framework of modern Chinese history. Muscolino shows how the making of Qing, National, and PRC rule were often built on its relationships to natural resources. He has also come to see many similarities between today’s environmentalist transformations and China’s past. China stands, as he asserts, at the heart of the world’s present-day predicaments.

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Violent Fraternity: An Interview with Dr. Shruti Kapila
Interviews | March 2, 2022

Violent Fraternity: An Interview with Dr. Shruti Kapila

Historical considerations of modern South Asia have been marked by a predisposition towards  political, material and socio-cultural analyses. Seldom has the remit of ideas as autonomous objects taken centre stage in the historiography of modern South Asia. Shruti Kapila’s new book Violent Fraternity veers off this established trajectory and breaks new ground by looking at ideas as the wellspring of political innovation and fundamental to the republication foundations of the nations of India and Pakistan during what she terms the ‘Indian age’. A work of remarkable scope that defies easy summarisation, the premise of Violent Fraternity is that violence became fraternal in 20th-century India: it was the intimate kin rather than the colonial other that became the object of unprecedented violence. “Violence, fraternity and sovereignty,” Kapila writes, “made up an intimate, deadly and highly consequential triangle of concepts that produced what has been termed here the Indian Age." In her recent book Violent Fraternity and in her earlier work on intellectual history of modern India, Dr. Kapila has pushed the boundaries of the field beyond its conventional focus on the West. In our interview, we spoke about modern India’s founding fathers and their intellectual contributions, writing global intellectual histories of the non-west, the future of the field of global intellectual history and Dr. Kapila’s engagements beyond her illustrious academic career.

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A More Expansive Atlantic History of the Americas: An Interview with Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra
Interviews | August 12, 2021

A More Expansive Atlantic History of the Americas: An Interview with Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra

Jorge Cañizares Esguerra details his current project, Radical Spanish Empire. His aim is to historicize, to radicalize, to Americanize (expansively understood), and to show that colonial Massachusetts is unintelligible without Puebla or Tlaxcala in colonial Mexico, that colonial Virginia makes no sense without its Andean and Peruvian counterparts, and that Calvinists should be understood alongside Franciscans.

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Money and Colonialism in Canada: An Interview with Brian Gettler
Interviews | June 8, 2021

Money and Colonialism in Canada: An Interview with Brian Gettler

Money is far from a commonplace and benign object. It carries political significance and power even beyond the symbols emblazoned upon notes and coins. Yet money and currencies seldom emerge as a focal point in histories of colonialism and empire; normally they are an accessory to express value, a tool of exchange, or a medium of early encounters. In Colonialism’s Currency: Money, State, and First Nations in Canada, 1820–1950, Brian Gettler sets out to correct this narrative. He shows how money, in its materiality and from the practices surrounding it, can be conceived of as a political force that reshapes space, mediates the colonial project, extends sovereignty, and modulates behaviours. It is for him, more precisely, a technology that allows us to trace the emergence of the colonial state in what becomes Canada, as well as its complex and changing relationships with Indigenous peoples.

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Liberal Internationalism for Hard Times: An Interview with G. John Ikenberry
Interviews | May 17, 2021

Liberal Internationalism for Hard Times: An Interview with G. John Ikenberry

"There is a categorization of IR theories that came out of the post-World-War-Two rise of the professional IR field that said that the great debate was between realism (looking at power and capabilities of states) and idealism, which is how liberalism was understood…My book is an emphatic rejection of that framing: liberal internationalism is about managing material reality, modernity, manifest as economics, security and environmental interdependence. In fact, realism is more of a utopian project based on an exaggerated focus on anarchy and power politics. And that misses the material reality that has mattered most in the last two-hundred years, which is this industrial modernizing world of interdependence that has put liberal democracies in a position where they can both take advantage of it and protect themselves from its most dangerous implications." We spoke with G. John Ikenberry in December 2020, a time of disorientation and anxiety in the United States and much of the world. Kansas-born and of German-heritage, Ikenberry is calling for the re-evaluation and the renewal of the liberal tradition one hundred years after the figure of Woodrow Wilson, whose words (“a world safe for democracy”) our Princeton professor still finds inspirational for the big challenges ahead.

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Sharing the Burden: An Interview with Charlie Laderman
Interviews | April 7, 2021

Sharing the Burden: An Interview with Charlie Laderman

Drawing on research in U.S., British, and Armenian archives, Sharing the Burden looks at the evolution of the relationship between the United States and Great Britain from roughly 1894 until 1919. What was known as “The Armenian Question,” a complex knot of dilemmas pertaining to humanitarian intervention, empire, and the evolution of international cooperation, arose time and again in these years, as Armenian people suffered successive massacres under the crumbling Ottoman Empire. At the start of Laderman’s book, the United States still relied on missionary groups—not ambassadors—as its representatives in many parts of the world, and the Sublime Porte in Istanbul still controlled most of the Middle East; by the end, the United States is firmly ensconced as a great power, the League of Nations has been both formed and rapidly undermined, and European colonial mandates controlled much of the Middle East. Sharing the Burden provides a vivid window into these significant transformations, all while charting how various U.S. presidents, missionary leaders, and British officials responded to the question of humanitarian intervention to save the Armenians. Along the way, Laderman brings to light many forgotten projects of the period: an Anglo-American colonial alliance, the drive to establish a U.S.-controlled mandate in Armenia, and the salience of the Armenian question for the American public—tantalizing counterfactuals, indeed.

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Imperial Mecca: An Interview with Prof. Michael Low
Interviews | February 19, 2021

Imperial Mecca: An Interview with Prof. Michael Low

The hajj—that is, the annual pilgrimage to Mecca—is a pillar of faith for Muslims, but in the late nineteenth century, it was also a legal, epidemiological, and imperial frontier. In his long-anticipated Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj, Michael Christopher Low offers an account how that “very heart of Islam”—Mecca and the Hijaz—came to straddle “two imperial worlds.” Imperial Mecca charts how the British Empire came to challenge Ottoman imperial legitimacy and, subsequently, affect its pilgrimage administration, its relationship to non-Ottoman Muslims, and inspire administrative anxieties around the semi-autonomous province of the Hijaz. Since his widely-read 2008 article, “Empire and the Hajj,” Low has been a leading contributor in the now flourishing field of hajj studies. Based on archives largely based in Istanbul and London, Imperial Mecca consolidates nearly fifteen years of research, reflection, and labour and reasserts an understudied “Ottoman sense of space, place, population, environment, and territory back [into] our understanding of the transimperial hajj.”

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On Global History: Avatars, Dilemmas, Partitions, Problems—A Conversation with Jeremy Adelman
Interviews | January 13, 2021

On Global History: Avatars, Dilemmas, Partitions, Problems—A Conversation with Jeremy Adelman

This conversation with Toynbee Prize Foundation Trustee Jeremy Adelman took place during the global COVID-19 pandemic, the final weeks of the US Presidential election, and the end of the Brexit negotiations. Through the lens of global history, we discussed tense relations amid the most recent wave of globalization and our present moment of resurgent nationalisms.

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Chinese-American Mobilities: Interview with Charlotte Brooks
Interviews | December 6, 2020

Chinese-American Mobilities: Interview with Charlotte Brooks

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought mobility to a halt. Suddenly, we live in a world largely undefined by the physical exchange of people (if not goods and ideas) across borders. And while this moment of stasis has prompted its fair share of socio-economic and political anxiety, it has also provided an opportune moment to reflect upon some of the movements that have shaped international relations in the recent past. To this end, Charlotte Brooks’s 2019 book American Exodus: Second-Generation Chinese Americans in China, 1900-1949 carries a vital message. By focusing on stories of immigration that have been obscured by the overarching narrative of the United States as a beacon for inbound migrants, Brooks’s text explores a part of American history that has been pushed to the physical and conceptual margins. At the same time, she draws out a collection of figures whose lives speak to the human-centric linkages that bound China and the United States together at a time when they appeared to be very much apart.

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Justice in the New World: An Interview with Brian Owensby and Richard Ross
Interviews | October 6, 2020

Justice in the New World: An Interview with Brian Owensby and Richard Ross

In what ways did both settlers and natives understand or partly understand or misunderstand the other side’s legal commitments while learning about them? Framed against the ongoing problematic of intelligibility, legal historians Professors Brian Owensby and Richard Ross's edited volume Justice in a New World analyses two sets of comparisons: one between settlers and natives, and the other between a British and Iberian America.

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Boys on America’s Imperial Frontier: An Interview with Mischa Honeck
Interviews | September 3, 2020

Boys on America’s Imperial Frontier: An Interview with Mischa Honeck

"The Boy Scouts were an organization that sought to discipline and control young people as much as they wanted to also animate and liberate them from what they identified as corrosive influences on young manhood. Because of that, there’s plenty of interesting commentary on what young people did and what they supposedly thought within scouting. This is not specific to the Boy Scouts of America—I think this is true for almost all of the major youth organizations of the twentieth century. That also compelled me to reconsider what it means to recover the voice of the child, because sometimes adult-authored sources contain the fingerprints of young actors as well. They also reflect things that young people did and can serve as a lens that can help approach young people as subjects within certain fields of academia." Mischa Honeck’s Our Frontier is the World: Boy Scouts in the Age of American Ascendancy (2017) takes a much-needed look at the role of children in the construction of the United States’s imperial identity. Through a detailed analysis of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), he interrogates the interlinking impulses of youth, nationalism, and power in the first half of the twentieth century.

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