This brief essay is intended to comment on Geoff Eley's essay 'Historicizing the Global, Politicizing Capital: Giving the Present a Name'. It is in three parts. The first critically reviews some recent literature on economic aspects of 'globalization', focusing in particular on authors associated with the National Bureau for Economic Research (NBER). The second section poses the question of the relative absence of Asia - both China and India - in Eley's analysis, a remarkable blind spot of some dimensions. The final then looks at the question of the emergence of the 'global' as an object of study for historians, here revisiting some of my own earlier work and that of the French historian Serge Gruzinski. In the space of a few pages, a critique is thus offered both of Eley's own Eurocentric prejudices and his narrowly 'presentist' concerns.
This article explores the way in which abolition rhetoric was used in the Yorkshire elections of 1806 and 1807 to discredit candidates who supported the mechanization of the local wool industry. The 1807 election was held some two months after the bill abolishing the slave-trade became law. Amongst the candidates were William Wilberforce, already widely associated with the cause of abolition, and Henry Lascelles, whose fortune derived from West Indian slave economies. The way in which anti-slavery sentiment invoked ideas of liberty sheds light on the relationship between regional, national and imperial identities in constructing ideas of Britishness. Voters identified with rhetoric which evoked the empire, but they did so in ways that were highly localized and which gave slavery meanings more pertinent to circumstances within Yorkshire than in slave societies themselves. While powerful analogies were made between slavery and industrialization, they were cast in abstract moral terms which blunted the potential edge of class conflict, attacked alleged parvenus and endorsed concerns for a stable social hierarchy. The Yorkshire elections testify to the plasticity of public emotion about ending the slave trade in 1807 and suggest that we need to re-evaluate interpretations of abolition sentiment that regard it as either as a radicalizing force or as a distraction that muted political dissent in an industrializing economy.
The globalized labour markets of the twenty-first century have important foundations in the making of Britain's industrialization in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Eley seeks to 'historicize' globalization by making slaves and servants key players in capitalist accumulation. His case, not as new as he claims, would be greatly enriched by turning to recent research in global history. Slaves, servants and labourers produced commodities, many of these consumed globally as luxury, addictive and fashion goods, and ultimately as 'necessities'. Caribbean slave-plantations producing the sugar, tobacco and coffee early integrated into European diets need to be linked to the worlds 'first industrial regions' in China and India producing the global cottons and porcelains, manufactured on a mass scale for world markets long before Europe's industrialization. Eley makes an admirable plea to 'historicize' the global, but we need to go further, to be more global and more historical. Our current global perspectives are shaped by US geopolitical aims, but also by Middle Eastern resistance and Chinese and Indian economic resurgence. The histories of Chinese and Indian connections to the wider world, and of Islam and Europe, of Islam and Africa are histories we need to know. These have provided the key components, aspirations and material cultures that have shaped the making of the history of the 'West' and of 'capitalist modernity'.
The question 'what happened to the Ottoman Armenians in 1915?' is becoming more and more politically encumbered and is now polarized into two distinct and uncompromising discourses. At one end are those who argue that the deportations and massacres constituted a 'genocide', planned beforehand. At the other are those who try to explain the deportations of hundreds of thousands of people as 'a simple administrative measure necessitated by the state of war'. This article examines some key moments of debates on the issue in the Ottoman Parliament in the autumn of 1918, and describes their political and emotional context. The Deputies taking part had lived through the Armenian massacres, and none of them, Muslim or non-Muslim, denied that atrocities had happened. Nor at first were there legal impediments to discussions in press and Parliament. However, the demands of Armenian and Greek Deputies for more detailed debate and for punishment of those responsible were blocked by the Parliament, where Deputies aligned with the just-disbanded Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the party which had authorized the 'relocations', were in the majority. Some of the views concerning the Armenian massacres put forward in official circles in Turkey today were also to be heard at the Ottoman Parliament. But protests by the Unionist Deputies (such as 'Turks died, too') on the one hand, and on the other, denunciation by Deputies of minority origin of those responsible for massacres and demands for their punishment, could all be expressed under the same roof. The Deputies of the Ottoman Parliament were able to engage in serious discussion of these important issues, unlike now.
This essay focuses on a series of commentaries on the state of historical studies by E.P. Thompson, Eric Hobsbawm and others that the Times Literary Supplement ran in 1966, and two recent books on the state of the discipline, Geoff Eley's highly personal A Crooked Line and a multi-author volume edited by David Cannadine, What is History Now? Using these very different works as entry points, it assesses ways that the historical profession has changed during the past forty years. Topics addressed range from the shifting audience for academic work on the past, to the links and tensions between social and cultural history, to the varying kinds of historians who have felt marginalized at different points in the recent past. Mirroring Eley's emphasis on how the backgrounds (generation, area of specialization, gender, etc.) of individual historians are bound to shape their assessments of disciplinary trends, the author presents his own critique as one made not from Olympian heights, but from the particular perspective of someone who mostly focuses on China's past and was trained at Berkeley in the 1980s.
This article examines the intersecting experiences of migration, alienation, marginalization and a 'reshuffling of the self' for Muzaffar Ahmad (1889-1973) in the colonial metropolis of Calcutta during the First World War, arguing that they were key components in his post-war ideological transformation. A writer turned activist, he went on to become the central figure of a socialist nucleus in the city as well as one of the founders of the Communist Party of India in the early 1920s. The article focuses on the war years and argues that the dialectical interplay between Muzaffar Ahmad's wartime experiences in his urban social milieu and the political trends which touched the Calcutta intelligentsia during the 1910s was crucial in making him turn leftward. A 'reshuffling' of the social self during this period prepared the way for his political transition in the climate of post-war mass upsurge against colonialism and capitalism in the city and beyond.
According to the Anishinaabek (Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Odawa), their migration from the eastern shores of North America to the Great Lakes region began with the knowledge that a light-skinned people would cross the great salt water and threaten their survival. My Irish ancestors were among the light-skinned people who followed that same path of migration and settled on land the Anishinaabek were later forced to cede. The stories of the Anishinaabek and my ancestors' stories share echoes of colonial displacement and devastating hardship. But our migration stories also reveal a history of racism at the heart of American culture, as Europeans, often fleeing oppression themselves, participated in the oppression of American Indians. The United States has not yet reconciled its past nor addressed the ongoing marginalization of American Indians. So I set out to retrace the paths of our two peoples. I wondered what my ancestors, and other immigrants, understood about their relationship to the Indian people whose land they came to occupy, and what I might understand from the stories of the Anishinaabek. When I began, I could not imagine how the Anishinaabe people could point a way to reconcile the past and our separate worlds.
In this personal essay, Jasanoff explores the family history that preceded her academic interest in figures who crossed geographical and cultural borders. Jasanoff's grandparents traversed borders as travellers and immigrants. So did her parents - one Jewish, the other Bengali - who further crossed cultural lines by marrying each other. This ethnically-mixed heritage has had consequences for Jasanoff's scholarly outlook. While recent historiography of empire has tended to stress the hostility and oppression of imperial encounters, Jasanoff's research has explored incidents of cross-cultural collaboration and migration. Her reluctance to characterize imperial exchange in binary terms may stem, she suggests, from her personal background as the blended product of two distinct traditions.
East End Underworld: Chapters in the Life of Arthur Harding is a key text on the history of London's East End. It is a testimony to the brilliance of Raphael Samuel as a historian, as well as a memorial to a key figure in the seamy side of East London life from the late Victorian to the interwar period. Fortunately the vast majority of East Enders had a different pattern of life. Had death not cut him short Samuel would undoubtedly have produced a number of other fascinating volumes, one of which might have been the companion volume to East End Underworld, promised in his Prefatory Note. Raphael assured me that this would tell the story of the origins of the book. It is sad in the extreme that Raphael never fulfilled his intention of writing a companion volume. In its absence, this article is an attempt to fill in some of the background.