How does one define empire? What are the characteristics of a successful empire? These two questions arise foremost after reading John Darwin’s monumental masterpiece After Tamerlane. In nine succinct chapters with informative titles, Darwin encompassed 600 years of global history, supported by illustrations and maps and for those interested, suggestions for further reading.
Crossing the Bay of Bengal, came out at a time when I had just begun to explore another history of the Bay through my research into the experiences of Bengali refugees who were rehabilitated in the Andaman Islands in the years between 1949 and 1971.(1) Hounded by the violence and brutality of the post -partition riots that ravaged the deltaic
Knowledge is power. Over the last three decades this old aphorism of political philosophy has been central to the study of colonialism in history, anthropology, and literary and cultural post-colonial studies. Revised and re-launched in social theory by Michel Foucault, the theme gained momentum after the publication of Edward Said’s highly influential book, Orientalism, in 1978.
In 1775, Samuel Johnson had already identified the central paradox of United States history. He notoriously challenged British readers to explain why ‘we hear the loudest yelps for liberty among the drivers of negroes’. Generations of historians have tried to answer that question. How could a movement espousing belief in liberty include so many slaveholders?
Despite their presence in the popular imagination and their undoubted importance in the narrative of medieval history, the Crusades have for a long time sat apart from mainstream medieval historiography. Traditionally, the Crusades themselves are as peripheral in the minds of historians of Europe as they were geographically.
Why would a hardened band of foreign jihādi warriors agree to work for a self-proclaimed leader of the Christian world – especially one militantly opposed to Islam, who kept his own Muslim citizens under close surveillance? And why would such a ruler choose to keep that particular type of professional killer in his personal employ?
In his 2013 book, The Enlightenment: And Why It Still Matters, Anthony Pagden devoted a chapter to the European ‘discovery’ of ‘man in nature’, partly through their study of the individual men whom French and British explorers brought back from their voyages to the South Pacific.
Lauren Benton and Lisa Ford’s jointly-written book is slim in size – 197 pages of text, 74 of notes – but expansive in scope and interpretative ambition. It is a dense, complex piece of history, frequently operating on several levels at once.
A closer look at the rhetoric surrounding the current Ukrainian-Russian conflict reveals it is as much about past as about the present or future. Not only have both sides regularly resorted to historical arguments, turning the past into yet another battleground in a ‘hybrid war’, but outside observers also look to the past in search for answers and explanations.
In the latest of our occasional Reviews in History podcast series, Daniel Snowman talks to Professor Roy Foster about his recent book, Vivid Faces: The Revolutionary Generation in Ireland, 1890-1923, as well as issues surrounding Anglo-Irish history, historiography and biography.