Imperialism

Gandhi Before India

April 29, 2014

The first volume of what may well be the definitive biography of Mohandas Gandhi, Ramachandra Guha’s Gandhi Before India covers the years from Gandhi’s birth in 1869 through his departure from South Africa in July, 1914. Biographers have often treated Gandhi’s earlier life– especially his two decades working in South Africa–as a  little more than […]

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The Other American Colonies

April 8, 2014

I struggled to come up with a title for this post that was not United States-centric*–a fact which pretty much sums up the topic at hand. For most Americans** the grade school version of history that we carry in our heads jumps from Columbus in 1492 straight to the arrival of the Puritans in Massachusetts […]

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The Black Hole of Calcutta

March 18, 2014

In mid-eighteenth century India, power was up for grabs. The Mughal dynasty was in decay. Smaller regional powers flourished. European trading companies, which held their trading privileges at the discretion of Indian rulers, were constantly looking for a way to get an edge. The British and French East India Companies, in particular, maintained private armies […]

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Introducing Flat Arthur, aka His Grace the Duke of Wellington

March 12, 2014

Several weeks ago, fellow Historical Novel Society member Cora Lee shared an idea that she’d been having fun with for a few months and asked if any of us would like to play along. She took the idea of “Flat Stanley” and gave it a historical twist, creating “Flat Arthur”– a two dimensional version of […]

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Re-Run: Cowboys and Indians, North African Style

March 4, 2014

Unlikely though it seems, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the French Foreign Legion over the last week. I bet most of you have a few stock images of the Foreign Legion in your heads: men fleeing from their past into the desert and anonymity, absinthe, burning sands and blazing sun, those funny […]

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Re-Run: Word With A Past–Maffick

February 28, 2014

The Second Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902) started badly from the British point of view. British troops, supposedly the best trained and best equipped in the world, suffered a series of humiliating defeats at the hands of Boer farmers. (Anyone else hear echoes of another colonial war that pitted farmers against British regulars?) The only bright spot […]

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The Crystal Palace

January 28, 2014

Several weeks ago, My Own True Love and I ventured out into a frozen Chicago to attend an exhibition about the Columbian Exposition at the Field Museum.  A meta-exhibit if there ever was one, Wonders of the 1893 World’s Fair deals with the changing nature of how we think about the world around us and […]

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The Amritsar Massacre: Another Step Toward Indian Independence

January 17, 2014

  World War I brought India one step closer to demanding its independence from Great Britain. Indian regiments sailed overseas and fought alongside their Canadian and Australian counterparts. (If you visit the memorial gateway at Ypres, you will see how many of them died in defense of the empire.) Indian nationalists loyally supported the British […]

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The Swadeshi Movement: The First Step Toward Indian Independence

December 20, 2013

Beginning in the 1830s, the British East India Company provided Western education to a small number of Indian elites: it was cheaper and more effective than recruiting the entire work force of the empire back home in Britain. In addition to training clerks of all kinds, the East Indian Company created as a by-product what […]

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Holiday Rerun: The Other First Thanksgiving

November 28, 2013

Unless you live in the American Southwest, the grade school version of American history* typically leaps from Columbus and 1492 straight to 1620, when the Pilgrims landed in Massachusetts. There is a vague awareness that the Spanish and the French were “out there” doing something, but the story focuses on the development of the thirteen […]

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