By Edward Watson Sven Beckert places cotton at the center of his colossal history of modern capitalism, arguing that the growth of the industry was the “launching pad for the broader Industrial Revolution.” Beckert follows cotton through a staggering spatial and chronological scope. Spanning five thousand years of cotton’s history, with a particular focus on […]
By Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra How can the life of an artisan who specialized in punchcutting and engraving help us shed light on “the idea of the Spanish Enlightenment”? Donahue-Wallace offers an illuminating perspective on the Enlightenment through the biography of an expert medal caster, Jerónimo Antonio Gil, whose career took him from provincial Zamora to Madrid […]
By Aden Knaap, Harvard University The protagonist-narrator of Viet Thanh Nguyen’s 2015 novel The Sympathizer has a thing for squid. (Think less calamari, more American Pie.) The bastard son of a Vietnamese maid and a French priest, he discovers at the age of thirteen that he has a peculiar fetish for masturbating into gutted squid, […]
By Cynthia Talbot The world’s attention was captured in 2012 by the disaster that befell the Costa Concordia, a cruise ship that ran aground off the coast of Italy leading to 32 deaths. This shipwreck is the most recent one covered in A History of the World in Sixteen Shipwrecks, whose expansive gaze covers much of […]
by David Rahimi Starting with the encounter with European colonialism and modernity in the eighteenth century, Muslims increasingly began to worry that Islam was beset by existential crises as Muslim countries slowly fell under colonial domination. Some thought Islam had stagnated and made Muslims weak; others said true Islam already had the answers to modernity. […]
By Mark Sheaves Between 1560 and 1660, English and Scottish merchants, ministers, travellers, and statesmen traversed the globe in search of adventure and economic opportunities. Frustrated by England’s weak economy, religious and political turmoil, and social conflict, these entrepreneurial individuals settled all over the world. But how did they integrate into those diverse societies? In […]
by Charlotte Canning Stephanie Batiste, Darkening Mirrors: Imperial Representation in Depression-Era African American Performance (2012). Batiste explores the ways in which African Americans used performance to construct global identities in the face of US oppression and imperialism. The book argues that claiming agency and empowerment was not impossible in a world of entrenched racism. Donna […]
A number of people suggested books about crossing borders: about people traveling or emigrating to countries foreign to them or about people creating new hybrid identities in the places they lived. Since they don’t fit into our usual geographical categories –and raise interesting questions about those categories — we are lumping them together here in Crossing Borders.
Here are Steven Mintz’s suggestions for more reading on the history of childhood. Howard Chudacoff, Children at Play: An American History (2008) Chudakoff demonstrates that children’s play has always been a subject of contention, with adults seeking to control the way that children spend their time and kids using play for their own purposes: as a […]
Following his successful biography of the famous English corsair, Francis Drake, Harry Kelsey turns to Drake’s lesser-known but equally adventurous cousin, John Hawkins (1532-1595).