Henry Jacob, University of Cambridge
Samuel Moyn, “America is giving the world a disturbing new kind of war,” The New York Times
In a guest essay on his just-released book, Humane: How the United States abandoned peace and reinvented war, Professor Samuel Moyn poses a paradoxical pressing question: what if movements to make war more ethical have also made them endless?
Mario Enrique De León, “Panamá, en medio de un sistema-mundo capitalista en contracción,” La Estrella de Panamá
Mario Enrique De León offers insights on Panama’s place in an increasingly turbulent world filled with pressing crises ranging from the climate to COVID-19 and suggests “del pasado se aprende.”
Jorge Díaz Ceballos and Javier Rivera-Sandoval, “Entre el juzgado y la sepultura. Violencia y vida cotidiana en Panamá Viejo,” Anuario de Estudios Americanos
Through a blend of original archival and archaeological work, these two authors provide a framework for analyzing and understanding quotidian multiethnic violence in colonial Panama.
Tiger Zhifu Li, University of Sydney
Shaimaa Khalil, “Fury as Covid crisis hits Australia's Aboriginal communities,” BBC News
New South Wales’s latest Covid-19 outbreak made some Aboriginal Australians angry. Currently, most of the hundreds of people infected in the western NSW outbreak are Aboriginal Australians. Some believed the government failed to protect them and nobody listened to them.
Lin Xin, Wang Qi, and Wang Wenwen, “China, Russia jointly celebrate V-Day amid shared WWII view and need to counter Japanese aggressive resurgence,” Global Times
To mark the 76th victory anniversary of the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45), China and Russia—two major contributors to wining WWII—jointly held memorial activities, which analysts say intends to urge Japan to truly reflect on its military mistakes instead of binding itself increasingly tighter with the US and endangering regional peace and stability.
Nabih Bulos, “Tanks, attack helicopters, drones, bullets: What the arms left behind by U.S. mean for the Taliban,” Los Angeles Times
American troops exiting Afghanistan left behind a vast amount of military gear and equipment that have made the Taliban better-armed than ever.
Fernando Gómez Herrero, Birkbeck, University of London
Jonathan Dimbleby, Barbarrosa: How Hitler lost the war, Penguin / Viking, 2021
This is a very readable, accessible history about the great theme of big war by a public historian who straddles journalism and popular mass media. London think tanks such as the Royal United Services Institute request his input on the evergreen topic of WWII. And what greater episode is there from that war than operation Barbarrosa, “the biggest, bloodiest, most barbarous military enterprise in the history of warfare”? This is colossal stuff for the imagination with barbarity on all sides. Two totalitarian ideologies squeezed liberalism in the middle. Dimbleby’s corrective impetus is to bring the fundamental Eastern Front to the center of focus. This is where Hitler lost the war in a combination of hubris, miscalculation and overriding his generals. But the Soviets had Timoshenko and Zhukov, the decimation of the Kulaks, complicity with the Nazi extermination gangs following the advancing Wehrmacht, all sorts of “messy-in-between” negotiations, delays, and the arrival of a particularly cold winter. By the end of 1941, there were over a million German and 4.5 million Soviets casualties. Dimbleby focuses exclusively on these Barbarossa months, leaving it to his epilogue to give a larger perspective. This is not the primary-source archival work of an old-fashioned and scrupulous professional historian. Our British historian Dimbleby leans on others. But the narrative is his and it is engrossing, even if the prose is serviceable. The theme is epic-beyond-epic. Dimbleby leans—naturally—on the U.K. and U.S. side of general matters. He keeps an ideological distance from the two colossal forces, the Nazis and the Soviets. But the book is mostly about war. It is light on ideological predicaments and entanglements.
Stewart Binns, Barbarossa and the bloodiest war in history, Wildfire, 2021
This is our second example of a very readable, accessible history about the great theme of big war by a public historian-cum-journalist. Binns, who also calls himself a soldier, uses Barbarossa in the title to cover the entirety of the war. And he covers the war swiftly with a fast pen. He also calls the war by the superlative “the bloodiest war in history.” Binns claims to take the side of the Soviets that the Nazi attack. It is a curious angle for a British writer. But he adopts it successfully, leaving Soviet ideology somewhat subordinate to their love for the motherland and their hatred of the vicious invader. Binns uses plenty of first-hand or witness materials, in English translation, and the most vivid language in his work comes from Soviet participants. They appear larger than humans in the end. This book has a more “on the ground” vision with plenty of quotes, perhaps too many, sometimes overpopulating the writer’s command of the general narrative. It is a popular-shelf history of World War II on the Eastern Front. There is plenty of drama and the Germans’ thoughts and feelings do not get the limelight. We know less about German strategizing than about the Soviet response. The conflict continues well after Dec 1941 and, unlike in Dimbleby’s Barbarossa, we read about the “mother of all battles” in Stalingrad in Sept.-Nov. 1942. The Allies are an important backdrop, but a backdrop nonetheless to the main action that lies on the Eastern Front where extermination methods followed army warfare. The turning of the red tide runs into the tragedy of Warsaw and the vengeance in German lands in the rape of German women. Binns pays unequivocal tribute to Soviet resistance and to their love of the homeland over the Communist ideology that must also have been there. There are vivid portrayals of individual acts of incredible horror and incredible heroism. Those words still resonate almost eighty years later in English translation. But the English are not part of the main story.
Stuart Hall with Bill Schwarz, Familiar stranger: A life between two islands, Allen Lane / Penguin Books, 2017
This is a moving and intimate narrative of Stuart Hall by Stuart Hall, one of the founding fathers of “cultural studies” in Britain in the second half of the Twentieth Century. The title reads “Familiar stranger,” in other words both things at the same time, mixed feelings, in and out of the two islands: the Jamaica of origin and constant return; and the Britain (mostly England) of arrival, of youth, of education, and of lifelong settlement but never quite a comfort zone. England is also the place of his political activism tied up to the centrality of race and racism, particularly in its anti-Black modalities. This book comes out of a series of conversations with Bill Schwarz, but Schwarz’s questions have been excised and readers only have the flow of Stuart Hall’s voice talking to them almost in conspiratorial tones with nothing to lose. The narrative extends from his birth in 1932 to about the 1960s. Perhaps his scholarly and intellectual peak is in the 1980s, the Thatcher / Reagan decade. Yet, here he explains how he came into be engaged with a whole set of thorny issues having to do with racial configurations of imperial / colonial inequalities still lingering today with a rich variety of English accents and sensibilities. Stuart Hall died seven years ago, in 2014. This book is posthumous work with his widow Catherine. Fans of Stuart Hall will love the conversational, fruit-fresh, yet taut-rope quality of this young curriculum vitae. There are reflections on the disavowal of race and the gradual dawn of the theme of racism, the conscription in modernity, the Oxford education, the Windrush generation, the collusion with other Caribbeans, hot and cold, there is some humor too and his early literary love affairs (Henry James for example). We are exposed to the modulation of the language of race (West Indians, the multiple hues of the pigmentations among the colonials, black, negro, n-word, etc.). The book closes with the political birth of the New Left Review. There is no resolution. There is no peace. There is no “home” but instead a restless interrogation of major issues reaching us unresolved. Chapeau, Mr. Hall, my hat off to you!