On 30 May 1925 British officers opened fire on Chinese union protesters in Shanghai's International Settlement, sparking a series of anti-imperialist protests now known as the 'May 30th Movement'. This article traces the response of the Australian Labor movement to these events. It examines connections between Chinese and Australian unions and shows how Asian anti-colonial nationalism affected Australian perceptions of class-based inequality in the 1920s and 1930s. Orthodox histories of the Australian Labor movement emphasize its inward-looking and xenophobic nature but these national historiographies have been too quick to assume the isolation of Australia from pan-Asian anti-colonialism. Rather than arguing that Australian unionists supported decolonization in the inter-war period this article explores how class relationships mediated Australian encounters with colonized people in Asia. Treating Shanghai and Sydney as entangled outposts of Empire suggests we need to re-evaluate interpretations of Australian class dissent that regard it either as part of a solely European tradition or as a motivated only by local conditions.
The case of James Somerset brought into public view the inherent contradiction between the two core values of British life in the eighteenth century: liberty and property. Somerset had been captured in Africa as a boy and sold to a merchant with whom he subsequently travelled in America and Europe. Aged about thirty he left his master's London house and refused to return. Upon being recaptured by slave hunters he was confined in irons and taken on board a ship bound for Jamaica, to be sold once more. Abolitionist friends publicized his situation and applied for a writ of Habeas Corpus. The case was immediately seen as a test of the legality of slavery in England. In this case (Rex v. Knowles, ex parte Somersett, 1772) arguments about the nature and history of villeinage played a crucial role. While abolitionists, led by Granville Sharp, maintained that English villeinage became obsolete because English law favoured freedom, defenders of slavery mobilized the category of villeinage as slavery's logical precedent and analogue. The lawyers for James Somerset argued against state support for domestic slavery by claiming that villeinage was no precedent: it was 'a slavery in blood and family, one uninterruptedly transmitted through a long line of ancestors'. This definition delineated villeinage as a specifically English status proven 'by other villeins of the same blood such as were descended from the same common male stock'. William Davy, Serjeant-at-Law and one of the lawyers representing Somerset, argued for Somerset's release on the grounds that as an institution villeinage was 'confined to Complexion and... confined to a particular Quarter of the World'. In other words, villeins were English by blood, tied to England and their status by family, whiteness, and place. Lacking this lineage or historical claim, abducted Africans could never occupy this legal category. This article examines the consequences of empire at home and how the law was used to navigate the real and imagined relationships created in empire's wake. Mingling on the periphery and in the metropole had confusing implications for economic, political, and legal institutions as well as for individual physical bodies. The association of villeinage with whiteness that took place through the arguments presented in Somerset's case was necessary in order to distinguish between free and enslaved people, colonizers and colonized, English and African. The case provided an opportunity to clarify boundaries by creating and fixing legal categories derived from descent and race.
Moving through personal, intellectual and political autobiography this brief article traces the author's relationship with stories, memory and history. Her childhood was full of story-telling far richer than dry school history. As a student activist she was enthused by stories told by partisans, and a post-doctoral research job led to a great discovery: the revelation of primary sources. But the political spirit of the time was both ahistorical - in the sense of not caring about history - and anti-historical - in the sense of being determined to reject the past. When in 1967 she spent time in Dar es Salaam, however, working with and on the Mozambique liberation movement (Frelimo), history and memory helped to explain the impact of colonialism and to explore new forms that liberation might take. Back in Italy, in workers' education groups and in a left discussion group which involved the study and analysis of the history of capitalism in a world context, her attitude to history was still instrumental. In the last years of 1970s she began a transition from socio-political history to cultural history, in which oral history and memory were central. This led her to value the memory of others and to look for workers outside of the places where she had always met them. Finally, a passion for memory was free to emerge, in the interchange with women and men older than her, and in the effort to understand the various levels of their narrations. Their testimony and conversations revealed traces of more ancient memories; for instance, oral traditions transmitted from the rural to the industrial working class, or women's traditions of freedom and independence. She became part of an international network of people and initiatives dealing with memory. Listening to the memory of others allowed her, after about a decade of such practice, to listen to her own memory and to think about subjectivity. Her new perspectives allowed her to bring history and memory closer together, using the concept of cultural memory to think about identity. In this time of postcoloniality and of diasporas through and to Europe, she saw, the memory of Europe, an abstract concept, could not be understood as belonging exclusively to European subjects, that is, concerning what and how they remember. 'Memory of Europe' must also be given a meaning within which Europe is the object: who remembers Europe and how? As the memory of Europe extends beyond Europeans themselves, who are anyway scattered and migratory, as well as coming to include people from outside Europe's ever-changing boundaries, the distinction between self and other is broken down - at least in terms of European identity, of who is European - an operation which takes on historical force, at the same time as history inspires memory towards an understanding of the colonial era its and present implications.
The approach of Gareth Stedman Jones and the Centre for History and Economics has emphasized the need to understand the connections between economic structure and the social and intellectual context that shaped responses to industrial capitalism. They link economic thought and culture in order better to understand the economy. This paper reflects on some recent writing in the field, considering the cultural and social relations of credit; analysing the ways in which intra- and inter-generational relations are shaped; and reflecting on the ways in which knowledge and capacity influences the demands placed on the state.
Inflections of Race and Class: "Negroes" and "Gypsies" in Nazi Germany The mass murder prosecuted against the European Jews by the Nazi regime and rationalized in terms of 'race' poses a particular challenge to materialist historians. In one response to this challenge, many of us have adopted the term 'racial state' as shorthand for the sense that there is some kind of coherence in the multiple histories of internment, labour exploitation, sterilization and murder-or-letting-die, with systematic killing emerging at the end of a continuum of institutional dehumanization. However, close attention to the ways in which exclusionary and genocidal practices were devised, applied and experienced in everyday life throws up substantial evidence of incoherence. Drawing on case studies in the Nazi persecution of Blacks and 'Gypsies', this article explores what happened when the authorities attempted to impose a unitary, biological notion of race on a society with well-developed forms of everyday racism, and what opportunities the resulting tensions created for the victims of persecution to 'answer back'. It invites us to consider the 'racial state' as at best a work in progress, and Nazi racism not as the logical culmination of a trajectory of modern racism, but as a unique and incomplete experiment in radically redefining race.
This article argues that modern British history has become increasingly pluralistic as a result of intellectual and political shifts occurring since the 1960s. Gareth Stedman Jones's own career has been exemplary in his commitment to a conceptually sophisticated pluralism, an approach that is also reinforced by the contributors to the edited collection, Structures and Transformations (2011), who emphasize the contingency of historical perspectives and the need for a rolling rather than a fixed set of methodologies. While these developments have been productive for the writing of history, they nonetheless present pedagogic and political problems, especially in the context of the present government's attempts to reinstate a series of traditionalist master narratives about modern Britain. In a different context, some US based British historians have called recently for a clearer core historiography which foregrounds stronger integrative frameworks as an aid to student education. The article insists that demands for new integrative problematics, on the one hand, and the recent intellectual energies that have diversified the field, on the other, are not polarized opposites. The author explores these different approaches and their potential synthesis in relation to his own work on the history of sexual and moral change in Britain since 1945.
Nicholas Stargardt addresses the question of the remarkable resilience of the German state and society during the Second World War. Like Italy, German cities were subjected to massive Allied air raids from 1942 onwards, but there was no German equivalent to the strike-wave that swept northern and central Italy in the spring of 1943, and it is this comparison which is the starting point for Nicholas Stargardt's analysis of how German society coped with the crises of this period. He argues that it was that society's capacity to recover from crises which made it possible for the regime to go on fighting the war till the end. He proposes that the dynamic quality of these crises takes us beyond the conventional explanations of state-society in terms of coercion and consent, and into an exploration of the transformation of subjectivities and social values, in particular the moral and psychological power of fear and hope.
On 4 November 2008, the night when the US election results were made public, Obama and his family appeared at a victory celebration in Chicago. In his speech Obama alluded to the history of US Civil Rights which, he implied, made possible his own electoral victory. The historical relations between Civil Rights and the Obama presidency are complex and a matter of continuing political dispute. Indeed, even on the night of 4 November, at the very moment when Obama's supporters were most able to celebrate the future of his presidency, this historical past was a matter of contention. How that past registered in this political present marks the conceptual crux of the article. Two themes are followed here: first, the role of photography as the medium by which the past entered the present; and second, the juxtaposition of the images of young black girls during the height of the Civil Rights struggles with those of the more contemporary images of the Prsident Elect's young daughters, Malia and Shasha. From these contrasted representations of black femininity were presented the means by which the future of America could be imagined.
During the twentieth century South Africa's gold mines were the largest and the deepest in the world. Surprisingly, given the racialized labour regimes, the official rates of occupational lung disease were among the world's lowest. South Africa's achievements featured prominently in science and policy debates in Australia, France, Belgium, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK and the US. In recognition of South Africa's leadership in workplace reform, in 1930 the ILO chose Johannesburg as the site for a global conference on silicosis. South Africa's admirers had little understanding of work conditions on the Rand nor of how the official data was collated. The new science published since majority rule in 1994 shows that morbidity rates are vastly understated in the historical figures. Today almost a third of gold miners suffer from occupational lung disease. This article shows that rather than being a forum for promoting workplace safety the 1930 Conference was used by the South African mining industry as a platform to expand the most lethal of work regimes.
Shocked by the realization that Mussolini had brought the country into war unprepared, faced with growing difficulty in finding food, and feeling unprotected from enemy bombs, civilians started to distance themselves from the dictatorship, from the end of 1942 especially. The climax came in March and April 1943, when workers at Fiat in Turin went on strike, followed by workers from factories in Piedmont and Lombardy. This article revisits the history of these strikes in the context of Italy at war and of the crisis of the regime, particularly its inability to deal with the consequences of the bombing of Turin. In assessing work by Tim Mason on the subject, the article explores the crucial relation of the strikes to the wider collapse of the Italian home front. By looking at the strikes in the broader social and urban environment in which they took place it is possible to see that the impact of the first experiments in the 'area bombing' of northern Italy from autumn 1942 is an important missing element (though not the only one) in any explanation for the collapse of consensus and the strike action that followed.