Thinking globally about history
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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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Liberalism in Pre-revolutionary Russia: An interview with Susanna Rabow-Edling
Interviews | August 5, 2020

Liberalism in Pre-revolutionary Russia: An interview with Susanna Rabow-Edling

"I wanted to question the contrast between East and West, according to which Russian nationalism is conservative and ethnic, whereas Western nationalism is seen as civil and liberal, hence good. I found that this view of Western nationalism has been questioned a lot while the view on Russian nationalism had not been questioned as much. This contributes to an essentialist view of Russian culture as fundamentally different from Western culture." In Liberalism in Pre-revolutionary Russia: State, Nation, Empire (Routledge, 2018), Susanna Rabow-Edling looks at the history of liberal nationalism in the Russian Empire, covering the period between the Decembrist revolt in 1825 and the October Revolution in 1917. She examines liberal tendencies in the Empire and how they are intertwined with notions of nation and empire.

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Thinking Through Water: An Interview with Sunil S. Amrith
Interviews | June 22, 2020

Thinking Through Water: An Interview with Sunil S. Amrith

In his latest book, Unruly Waters, Sunil Amrith shows how “the schemes of empire builders, the visions of freedom fighters, the designs of engineers—and the cumulative, dispersed actions of hundreds of millions of people across generations—have transformed Asia’s waters over the past two hundred years.” It testifies to the dreams that societies have often pinned to water, as well as its unwieldy and turbulent nature. In his account of “the struggle for water” and control over the Asian monsoon, we come to understand how climate change exacerbates a problem both already in-progress and connected to histories of “reckless development and galloping inequality.”

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Global Ukrainian Studies in the Making: An Interview with Serhii Plokhy
Interviews | March 12, 2020

Global Ukrainian Studies in the Making: An Interview with Serhii Plokhy

It is only in the past decade that Ukrainian history has begun to be researched in the context of international or global history. The American historian Serhii Plokhy, Mykhailo S. Hrushevs'kyi Professor of Ukrainian History at Harvard University and director of the Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute, is a prominent exponent of this approach. Plokhy's research interests include the early modern history of Ukraine, twentieth-century international history, and intellectual history. We spoke with Serhii Plokhy about the integration of Ukrainian history into global history, the colonial status of Ukraine, and environmental history.  

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Unexpected Guests? The Soviet Union and the History of Global Capitalism: An Interview with Oscar Sanchez-Sibony
Interviews | February 13, 2020

Unexpected Guests? The Soviet Union and the History of Global Capitalism: An Interview with Oscar Sanchez-Sibony

Capitalism versus Communism. To many, the latter half of the twentieth history was deeply shaped by the confrontation between these two ideological and socioeconomic systems. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, capitalism's triumph was credited to its valorization of money and protection of markets, among other factors; and, as the story continues, Communists failed, in part, because they suppressed markets and globalization. Yet, how much of this historical picture holds true?

 

 

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Youth, God, and Empire: Interview With Dr. Joy Schulz
Interviews | January 22, 2020

Youth, God, and Empire: Interview With Dr. Joy Schulz

Emphasizing the centrality of American missionary children in the domination of the Hawaiian Islands during the second half of nineteenth century, Dr. Joy Schulz's analysis exposes the potency of youth power through a series of chapters that trace the development of these young evangelists into colonizers and revolutionaries. In the process, she draws attention to the complexities born at the intersections of childhood and empire and underscores the capacity of children to record their own histories in ways that may complement or complicate adult ambitions.

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Seleucid Global? Time and Empire in the Hellenistic Near East: An Interview with Paul J. Kosmin
Interviews | December 9, 2019

Seleucid Global? Time and Empire in the Hellenistic Near East: An Interview with Paul J. Kosmin

Kosmin's work is part of a recent historiographical move to reevaluate the familiar narrative of the Seleucid Empire as a sprawling, dysfunctional, Oriental empire. His most recent book, Time and Its Adversaries in the Seleucid Empire, explores the time of this empire, which he argues was radically new and can be characterized as linear, empty, and homogeneous. This new technology of time drew the empire's subjects into one commensurable temporal framework. Such commensurable time, in turn, provoked various rediscoveries of indigenous pasts within a new scheme of Seleucid time and historicality. This generated a sense of temporal incommensurability between Seleucid and indigenous times and between past, present, and future—and it played into and gave shape to an atmosphere of pan-imperial revolt.

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'It's Not Rocket Science': Nuclear Disasters in and beyond the Soviet Union—An Interview with Kate Brown
Interviews | November 8, 2019

'It's Not Rocket Science': Nuclear Disasters in and beyond the Soviet Union—An Interview with Kate Brown

"About 50 deaths." This was the long-standing consensus held by scientists and worldwide audiences on the death toll caused by the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. "Was this really so?" asked Kate Brown, a historian at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), as she started to investigate the oft-overlooked social and environmental hazards in the communities affected by the world's infamous nuclear catastrophe. Her latest book, Manual for Survival: A Chernobyl Guide to the Future, departs from the consensus and has sparked a global discussion on both the contemporary consequences and history of nuclear energy exploitation in and beyond the former Soviet Union.

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The Institution of International Order: An Interview with Simon Jackson and Alanna O'Malley
Interviews | October 16, 2019

The Institution of International Order: An Interview with Simon Jackson and Alanna O'Malley

With some people becoming increasingly concerned about the attacks on the liberal international order and others questioning whether such a thing actually exists or has ever existed, the publication of The Institution of International Order: from the League of Nations to the United Nations in 2018 is a timely and welcome intervention. This edited volume sheds light on the historical dimensions of internationalism, by examining the League of Nations and the United Nations (UN) from the 1920s to the 1970s. Not only does it connect scholarship historicizing internationalism, but it also explicitly decenters the history of internationalism by bringing in people, organizations, and places not generally associated with the levers of international order.

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