This year witnesses the publication of the 100th monograph in the Studies in Imperialism series published by Manchester University Press and edited by John Mackenzie.
I was first introduced to the figure of Hubert Harrison as a history undergraduate attempting to write my final year dissertation on the role of Caribbean intellectuals in the Harlem Renaissance. Arriving in New York from St.
Posted up on my fridge door is one of those certificates with which any parent of primary school aged children over the past decade or so would be familiar – accessorised with stars and stickers and smiley faces, the award acknowledges one of the kids for their ‘Awesome Effort for Remaining Open to Continuous Learning’.
What a great idea! The only wonder is why no publishing house thought of commissioning a book on the topic before. The reader’s delight starts straight from looking at the cover illustration – a ‘translation’ of Harry Beck’s celebrated London Tube Map, in which Waterloo Station becomes Gare de Napoléon.
The sub-title says it all. This is a book about the elites of Belle Epoque Paris, primarily about the cultural elites, but also about their patrons, high society, industrialists and fashion designers, and all those who made the headline contributions to that Paris which sticks in the popular imagination.
Harlem and the photograph share a long, closely entangled history. Photographic images of the riots that erupted in the neighbourhood in 1935 and 1943 helped to puncture the image of Harlem as a playground for white urban adventurers, and to raise in its place the spectre of a ‘no-go’ area, a district of Manhattan sealed off from direct encounter by whites.
The Victoria History of the Counties of England, more commonly known as the ‘Victoria County History’ or simply the ‘VCH’, founded in 1899, is without doubt the greatest publishing project in English local history.
In 2009, when Jay-Z and Alicia Keys’ ‘Empire State of Mind’ dominated the charts and the airwaves, the chorus phrase ‘concrete jungle where dreams are made up, there’s nothing you can’t do’ conjured images of New York’s iconic skyline as well as its promise, embodying the sentiment that no other American – if not world - city captures the imagination quite like New York.
History has demonstrated assimilation under colonial occupation to be a near impossible result to attain due primarily to its basic premise: the colonizers’ belief in their superiority over the colonized. Furthermore, the colonizers’ ambition to replace the colonized people’s ‘inferior’ culture with their ‘superior’ culture further complicated this process.
A stigma around the ill-defined genre of popular history lingers in the academy.