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.
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?
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.
Into the relatively small pond of English-language work on the early modern Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Finnish historian Miia Ijäs has launched a monograph, based on her doctoral dissertation, which will be received with interest.
Jeffrey James Byrne’s monograph takes its title from an oft-cited quote by Amílcar Cabral, a leading figure in the fight against Portuguese colonial rule in Africa: ‘Christians go to the Vatican, Muslims go to Mecca, revolutionaries go to Algiers’.
David Brundage’s Irish Nationalists in America employs no sleight of hand in its title. It is a short, well-crafted new survey of Irish nationalists in the United States from the late 18th century to the close of the 20th that is more than the sum of its parts.
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.
For many of us, the ongoing carnage in Syria is a self-evident humanitarian crisis. We do not need to be convinced that the children drowning at sea, the women and men, young and old, begging for entry into any country that will accept them are worthy of our help.
Matthew Karp’s This Vast Southern Empire: Slaveholders at the Helm of American Foreign Policy seeks to explain the worldview of elite Southern slave-owners in the antebellum era.
This week in Reviews in History we are focussing on a single book, Jon Wilson's India Conquered: Britain's Raj and the Chaos of Empire. We invited five reviewers to contribute to a round table discussion and take up different aspects of the book, with the author then responding to each in turn.