In 1975 Paul Kennedy wrote that ‘yet another survey of the much-traversed field of Anglo-German relations will seem to many historians of modern Europe to border on the realm of superfluity’.(1) Even so, the intervening 37 years has seen no slackening off of the interest of both scholars and the general public in this particular international relationship.
From the late 1960s, the methods and claims of ‘conceptual history’ – although perhaps not Begriffsgeschichte – have fruitfully informed the scholarship of historians working on early-modern British and ‘Anglo-world’ political thought .
Benedict Anderson’s conceptualisation of nations as ‘invented communities’ identified the emergence of modern nationalism through a combination of demotic print culture and the growth of capitalism.
Rachel Beer first caught my attention some 20 years ago when I was trawling through Who Was Who looking for journalists. She was unusual because she was the editor of The Sunday Times in the 1890s, when no other national newspaper had a woman editor. She was also deeply conscious of her background, proud of being a member of the wealthy and important Jewish family of Sassoon.
At first sight this looks like another of those increasingly common commodity books, some of which are intended to be global in scope, and which include studies of chocolate, sugar, cod, salt and many others (digestible or not!). As Riello points out, commodities are a good way to tell a global story since many of them have been traded throughout the world for centuries.
‘A detective’, wrote a crime-fiction reviewer in 1932, ‘should have something of the god about him’:
The Summits of Modern Man: Mountaineering After the Enlightenment is both a more narrowly focussed and a more widely cast book than its title would suggest. The core of the work focusses on one physical mountain, and the activities which took place upon and around it from the 18th century onwards: Mont Blanc, the white mountain, and the highest peak in Europe.
At a time when billboards have been driven around London urging illegal immigrants to ‘go home’, when photographs of the arrests of those suspected of breaching their visas were being tweeted by the Home Office (with the hashtag #immigrationoffenders), and when 39,000 texts stating ‘go home’ have been sent to suspected overstayers, the publication of Tony Kushner's The Battle of Britishness
When you walk in to the Propaganda: Power and Persuasion Exhibition at the British Library you are told that ‘propaganda is used to fight wars and combat disease, build unity and create division’. You then walk through a guard of honour of black mannequins that offer different definitions of the word ‘propaganda’.
With contemporary Japanese-Korean relations so inextricably entrenched within contentious politics of national identity and divergent expressions of historical consciousness, Jun Uchida’s Brokers of Empire could not be a more welcome addition to the field of modern East Asian history.