This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History
It’s time for the weekend roundup in imperial and global history.
- To kick things off, ever wonder what a map of Africa might look like if it had never been colonized? Swedish artist Nikolaj Cyon has done just that:
The Washington Post notes that ‘the map asks what Africa would look like today if colonialism had never happened. (Africa’s present-day borders were determined largely by colonialism, which continues to create lots of very big problems.) Cyon drew these boundaries based on a study of political and tribal units in 1844, the eve of Europe’s “scramble for Africa.” He oriented it with south at the top to subvert the traditional Europe-on-top orientation.’ Be sure to check out the dozens of other maps compiled by the Washington Post‘s Max Fisher.
- Next on the list, the Wellcome Library has made freely available more than 100,000 high resolution images for commercial or personal use, ‘including manuscripts, paintings, etchings, early photography and advertisements’:
15th-century Persian horoscope from the book of the birth of Iskandar, via the Wellcome Library.
The images can be downloaded in high-resolution directly from the Wellcome Images website for users to freely copy, distribute, edit, manipulate, and build upon as you wish, for personal or commercial use. The images range from ancient medical manuscripts to etchings by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Francisco Goya.The earliest item is an Egyptian prescription on papyrus, and treasures include exquisite medieval illuminated manuscripts and anatomical drawings, from delicate 16th century fugitive sheets, whose hinged paper flaps reveal hidden viscera to Paolo Mascagni’s vibrantly coloured etching of an ‘exploded’ torso. Other treasures include a beautiful Persian horoscope for the 15th-century prince Iskandar, sharply sketched satires by Rowlandson, Gillray and Cruikshank, as well as photography from Eadweard Muybridge’s studies of motion. John Thomson’s remarkable nineteenth century portraits from his travels in China can be downloaded, as well a newly added series of photographs of hysteric and epileptic patients at the famous Salpêtrière Hospital.
- British imperial historian Warren Dockter has a fascinating take on Winston Churchill and Islam. He claims that Churchill’s views on Islam changed over time, and should not be viewed as monolithic. Thus, Dockter warns historians not to over-emphasize Churchill’s most infamous ‘reflection on Islam’ in The River War (1899). While it is indeed ‘especially damning of Islam’, it has also ‘been used by amateur historians, journalists, bloggers, and those with a political agenda to color Churchill’s legacy with false perceptions of Islam, creating an impression that he was both Islamophobic and a bigot.’
- Don’t miss Exeter IGH Network’s provocative three-part series discussing whether the relationship between imperial and global history is merely one of convenience. Check out part I, part II, and part III. Also, if you are an early career researcher of the subject, be sure to join their Researcher Database.
- Lastly, there are some insightful reviews via H-Empire, H-War, and H-Diplo respectively on French missionaries and empire, Korean War memoirs, and British economic warfare and the First World War.
[London, 1857] Image taken from page 464 of ‘The eventful voyage of H.M. Discovery Ship “Resolute” to the Arctic Regions in search of Sir J. Franklin. … To which is added an account of her being fallen in with by an American Whaler after her abandonment … and of her [courtesy of the British Library]
Need some new visual resources for next term’s imperial or global history class? The British Library has now made available over 1 million images dating from the 17th to the 19th century.
We have released over a million images onto Flickr Commons for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. These images were taken from the pages of 17th, 18th and 19th century books digitised by Microsoft who then generously gifted the scanned images to us, allowing us to release them back into the Public Domain. The images themselves cover a startling mix of subjects: There are maps, geological diagrams, beautiful illustrations, comical satire, illuminated and decorative letters, colourful illustrations, landscapes, wall-paintings and so much more that even we are not aware of.
[London, 1899] Image taken from page 349 of James Stafford Ransom, “Japan in Transition. A comparative study of the progress, policy, and methods of the Japanese since their war with China … With … maps … and illustrations” [courtesy of the British Library]
Also, if you have spare time, you can lend them a hand:
We are looking for new, inventive ways to navigate, find and display these ‘unseen illustrations’….We may know which book, volume and page an image was drawn from, but we know nothing about a given image…We plan to launch a crowdsourcing application at the beginning of next year, to help describe what the images portray…If you need help or would like to collaborate with us, please contact us on email, or twitter.
Be sure to have a look!