At the end of the 19th century the US acquired a substantial overseas empire – Hawaii, Samoa, Guam, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Cuba, as well as imperialist relations all around the world. In this miniseries we look at this Yankee Imperialism, focusing on the Spanish-American War. But first, the post-Reconstruction domestic situation in the US – the robber barons, the violent strikes, and the racial apartheid that fueled the American system. We use two books that are two sides of the same people’s history coin: Dave reads from Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States; Justin from J Sakai’s Settlers.
A strategically bankrupt expedition by a vindictive, racist, imperialist power to conduct a series of genocidal atrocities on a Muslim population solely because they dared to fight back. And no, we aren’t talking about last week – we conclude the Islam & Imperialism segment of Civilizations with the Anglo-Afghan wars starting with the Army of Revenge in 1842 and going down to the fixing of the Durand Line. What could go wrong?
The British imperialists made much of the bad experiences they had invading and pillaging Afghanistan beginning in 1839, coining terms like the “Graveyard of Empires” and inspiring racist poets like Kipling. We tell the story straight – a bloody imperialist aggression designed to set back Afghan society. Still, the story has some unforgettable characters – from Shah Shuja to Dost Mohamed, from McNaghten and Burnes to Mohan Lal Kashmiri. The crimes, the atrocities, the massacres, the racism and the foolishness of the imperialists and the calculations on the Afghan side, in this long instalment in the Islam & Imperialism series of Civilizations. This is a long one, and we didn’t quite get to the end of the first war!
Part 2 of our series on Islam and Imperialism in the 19th century: the Persian Empire’s struggles with the imperialists. In this period Persia was dominated by the Qajjars. We talk about their rise, the multiple wars with Russia, the attempts to modernize, the unequal treaties. We tell the story of Griboyedev’s demise from both sides, and talk about one of the biggest Victorian famines you never heard about – the Persian famine of 1869-1872.
For however long the construct of “Modern Western Civilization” has existed, its Eastern foil has been the Ottoman Empire. And for as long as we’ve been taught the glories of the West, we’ve been taught about Ottoman “decline”. We talk about the Ottoman Empire, show that the history is a little bit more complicated than a story of “decline”, and focus on the elite’s struggles to reform and modernize in the face of the growing ambitions of Western imperialists.
Justin reads the Afrocentrists and makes a pitch; David hangs on to the universalist perspective, as we talk about all the racist rewriting of history, the famous racist literature of imperialism, and the stunningly racist statements by public figures of the 19th century, from Kipling to Roosevelt and more.
The old saying goes that Science ain’t an exact science, and nowhere is that more true than with the Scientific Racism of the 19th century. From its predecessors in the 18th century, we get into the unholy trinity of Pearson, Galton, and Fisher. We talk about craniometry, phrenology, IQ testing, “race development” (now called International Relations), and racism in all your favorite fields, from criminology to anthropology, to political science and economics, to sociology and statistical science itself. We talk about the history, so you can ponder the question: has science moved past all this racist baggage?
Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species was read by Lord Elgin before he burned down the palace in Beijing and by Marx, who was so excited he asked Darwin if he could dedicate a volume of Capital to him (Darwin politely declined, not wanting to offend religious sentiment). We talk Darwin and the debates he spawned, physics, Freud, and about the scientific advances and missteps of the late 19th century. Part 1 of a series on Science, Scientific Racism, and Racism in the 19th century.
Racism, imperialism, repression of sexuality, hypocrisy, pugilism, world fairs, parades, animals on display, worship of a royal family… we look at the Victorian era and the Queen herself. Good thing we’ve come so far since those days… right?
By pure coincidence, we are publishing this episode on the day the world contrasted the the Alaska Summit – a US-China meeting in March 2021, in which China told the US to stop posturing, to the humiliations of the Boxer Protocol of 1901. In this episode, we talk about the terrible famines of 1876 and 1896 in China and India that killed tens of millions of people, the context of the Boxer Uprising of lightly armed but tenacious anti-imperialists, and the further humiliations inflicted on China by the imperialists at the nadir of China’s century of humiliation.