Monthly Archives: October 2020

A Global—and a Capitalist—American Revolution

by Dr. Tom Cutterham (University of Birmingham) Propagandists of the American Revolution insisted from the start that events unfolding on the eastern edge of North America had global significance. Twenty-first century historiography has found plenty of ways to repeat the claim. Historians have traced the revolution’s political impact around the world, through its example to other revolutionaries, its effect on how the British empire was governed, the migrations of ideas and people that it triggered, and the ongoing conflicts it brought about or shaped.1 Global perspectives also shape new studies of colonial society that seek to reconstruct, in patchwork, a “vast early America” that stretches well beyond the thirteen rebel colonies. Plenty of good work still falls comfortably within a framework of national teleology centred on the United States. But that frame is no longer hegemonic. Conversations about the American Revolution are now almost as likely to be held together by continental, oceanic, or global points of reference. The revolution is well on the way to being globalized.2 If the American Revolution has been highly amenable to global approaches, though, it has been largely absent so far from the “new history of capitalism.” Historians of “slavery’s capitalism” have effectively overturned […]

Capitalism in Global History Virtual Workshops

Received from Dr. Peter Hill (Northumbria University) Introduction A series of online workshops are being held alongside the publication of the Past & Present virtual issue “Capitalism in Global History”, edited by Dr. Andrew David Edwards, Dr. Peter Hill, and Dr. Juan Neves-Sarriegui, and associated blog posts. The worshops are jointly organised by researchers situated at the University of Oxford and Northumbria University who are involved with the Global History of Capitalism Project (Oxford) and the North East Transnational and World History Research Centre (NETWoRC) Workshop Schedule Tuesday 10th November – Prof. Jeremy Adelman (Princeton University): Capitalism in Global History, editors’ introduction by Dr. Andrew David Edwards, Dr. Peter Hill, and Dr. Juan Neves-Sarriegui   Thursday 26 November – Prof. Maxine Berg (University of Warwick): Capitalism in Global History, articles from the virtual issue and elsewhere   Tuesday 8 December – Prof. Joanna Innes (University of Oxford): Political Economy and Culture in Global History, series of blog posts   Readings and links to join will be precirculated in advance of each meeting. There are limited spaces available: to register interest please email Peter Hill,

A Black Life in Reformation Heidelberg: Dietrich Mohr, Kettledrummer and Trumpeter

by Dr. Matthew Laube (Birkbeck College, University of London) In ‘“The Harmony of One Choir”? Music and Social Unity in Reformation Heidelberg’, published in Past & Present No. 248, I explored the ways in which music differentiated and reinforced the identities of urban subgroups in Reformation Heidelberg. I examined differences in the social and acoustic profiles of the city’s parish churches, as well as student cultures of song which helped university communities to stand out from the urban fabric and cultivate trans-national and cross-confessional cultures of studenthood. There were a number of perspectives on this question – of how Heidelbergers stood out from, and blended into, urban society – which did not make the final cut in the published article. Although alluded to in the conclusion, I did not look at the ways in which sound helped to reinforce membership in professional networks, such as fishermen or professional musicians. Nor was I able to discuss other forms of difference in the city, for instance, difference of skin colour. As a result, my article did not discuss a little-known but well-documented African German musician named Dietrich Mohr, who lived and worked in Heidelberg during the first two decades of the seventeenth century. […]

From Imperial History to Global Histories of Empire: Writing in and for the 21st Century

by Dr. Erin M.B. O’Halloran (University of Toronto) There is a tweet making the rounds on the internet, accusing historians of inventing 2020 to sell more History. While we might protest our innocence, it is certainly true that History with a capital ‘H’ is experiencing a grim moment in the spotlight. A cascade of genuinely global crises have defined the past six months, from the pandemic and ensuing collapse of the real economy, to racial and social justice uprisings on multiple continents (met, in many cases, by violent state repression). Intermittent clashes between Chinese and Indian forces continue, raising the risk of war between nuclear powers; wildfires and other climate-linked natural disasters have ravaged the American West Coast, South America, Australia, and Africa. The August 4 explosion in Beirut, too, served as a violent metaphor for government corruption and a criminal disregard for human life—today as bitterly resonant in the Anglo West as the Global South. More ‘interesting’ times would be difficult, and painful, to imagine. My doctorate, which I completed last year, was in Global and Imperial History, an interlocking set of subfields which came to prominence in the UK in the final decades of the twentieth century. Since […]

Networks and blocs: metahistorical reflections

by Dr. Peter Hill (Northumbria University) Introduction The reflections that follow are frankly metahistorical. I am fully conscious of the fact that, to be more than interesting speculations, they need to be dragged back into a fuller contact with empirical reality. But to me the most stimulating aspect of the discussion group in which they originated, and the aspect which marked this off most clearly from most discussions among historians, was precisely its meta-historical dimension. This, I think, has enabled to see, and question, some of the shapes within which our more empirical work generally moves – and also to play, speculatively, with these shapes. These reflections may still be read, of course, as presumptuous, irrelevant, or both. Many of the problems I point to are old news, and many of the things I propose historians have been doing, in empirical practice, for a long time. But I believe that an attention to the meta-historical can help to clarify our purposes as historians, and I hope that these suggestions will stimulate, if they do not convince. I. Geography One of the starting-points of the ‘Political Economy and Culture’ reading group was an earlier, now often forgotten and rather unfashionable, set […]

The Government of Culture

by Dr. Chihab El Khachab (King’s College, Cambridge) How can we integrate analyses of ‘cultural’ phenomena within a broader set of political and economic relations? Peter Hill and I returned to this question time and again during our long conversations prior to the creation of the Political Economy and Culture group. Based on our different research materials and methods, we both came up with different answers. Working on nineteenth-century Arabic literature, Peter tried to connect texts with the political and economic circumstances of their writers: to what extent did form and content relate to the transformations of capitalism? What difference did it make to integrate an analysis of capitalist production into textual interpretation? Working with living cultural producers in the contemporary Egyptian film industry, on my part, I had a different way to connect the visible labour of filmmaking with hierarchies of creative decision-making, cash flows, and interactions with state agents. One can construct a model of the industry’s political economy out of these embodied relationships in a way that is unreachable through texts. In August 2018, I went to Cairo intent on beginning a new project about bureaucratic authority in Egypt. I wanted to understand why the state’s bureaucracy […]

Diya Gupta Joins the Royal Historical Society as Their Past & Present Fellow: Race, Ethnicity & Equality in History Fellow 2020-22

Received from the Royal Historical Society The post below originally appeared on the Royal Historical Society website – it is reproduced with permission The RHS is delighted to welcome Dr Diya Gupta as our new Past & Present Fellow: Race, Ethnicity & Equality in History. Dr Gupta will work with the Royal Historical Society and the Institute for Historical Research to develop and take forward the work of the RHS Race, Ethnicity & Equality Working Group (REEWG), and will combine this with developing her own research interests and her first book, based on her doctoral research. Diya completed her PhD in 2019 at King’s College London, where she studied Indian experiences and literature of the Second World War. In her work, alongside colonial photographs, she analyses letters, memoirs, political philosophy and literary texts in English and Indian languages to reveal the intensity and influence of Indian war emotions. Dr Gupta takes over from the previous Past & Present Fellow, Dr Shahmima Akhtar, who has taken up a permanent lectureship at Royal Holloway, University of London. We wish Dr Akhtar all the best in her new position, and many thanks for all her work at the RHS and IHR. We thank the Past & […]

“Decolonisation is also a movement of money” – Interview with Past & Present Author Vanessa Ogle

by the Past & Present editorial team Dr. Vanessa Ogle (University of California, Berkeley) whose article “‘Funk Money’: The End of Empires, The Expansion of Tax Havens, and Decolonization as an Economic and Financial Event” is currently avaliable on advanced access and will be published in the November 2020 edition of Past & Present, has been interviewed by International Politics and Society. See a short snippet of their interview below, and visit their site to read the full piece. Q. When we hear “decolonisation”, we may first think of mass protests, independence movements, armed conflict, racism, migration and so on. But you attempt to reconceptualise it as an economic and financial event that led to the expansion and consolidation of tax havens. How did you come to research that and why is it important? A. I came across the fact that people, upon leaving the colonies, sent money to tax havens when I was working on a broader book project on the history of the offshore world, offshore finance and tax havens. And this history goes back much further. It basically starts in the late 19th century. Back then, tax havens such as Switzerland and certain US States really come into […]