Episode 77: The Paris Commune

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: John Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of History, Yale

The Rue de Rivoli after the attack on the Paris Commune

For four months in 1871, angry citizens of Paris seized control of the city after a humiliating defeat against the Prussian Empire and the collapse of the Second Empire. The radical and revolutionary government and its brutal suppression was the inspiration for Karl Marx’s “dictatorship of the proletariat.” Although the experimental regime met a violent end, it has become part of the French national narrative.

John Merriman, Charles Seymour Professor of History at Yale, has just published a book about the Paris Commune that takes a new look at how a radical government managed to find support from rich and poor, conservative and liberal, to try to regain dignity in the face of France’s brutal defeat.

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Episode 76: The Trans-Pacific Slave Trade

Host: Christopher Rose, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History, UT-Austin
Guest: Kristie Flannery, Doctoral Candidate, Department of History

5632572_origAt the height of the Spanish Empire, the Manila Galleon – an annual flotilla between Manila and Acapulco – was considered the lifeline of Spain’s economy, bringing silver from the mines of New Spain to the markets of Asia. On the reverse trip, the galleons would be loaded with Asian luxury goods, such as spices, silks — and slaves. This episode presents a micro history of the Trans-Pacific slave trade through the lens of Diego de la Cruz, a chino slave who managed to escape and evade capture for three years in the highlands of Central America.

Guest Kristie Flannery found Diego’s story in the Spanish colonial archives, and narrates his tale in the broader context of the powerful political and economic forces at work in Spain’s global empire.

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Episode 75: The Birmingham Qur’ān

Host: Samantha Rose Rubino, Doctoral Student, Department of History
Guest: Christopher Rose, Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Birmingham Qur'an ManuscriptIn the summer of 2015, an obscure Qur’ān manuscript hidden in the far reaches of the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham grabbed attention worldwide when carbon dating revealed that the book was one of the oldest Qur’āns known to exist. In fact, it might have been written during the lifetime of the Prophet Muḥammad … or might it even have been written before Muḥammad’s lifetime?

Guest Christopher Rose (yes, our regular co-host) has been following the headlines and puts the discovery of the Birmingham Qur’ān within the larger field of Islamic and Qur’ānic Studies, and explains how the text might raise as many questions as it answers.

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Episode 74: The Changsha Rice Riots of 1910

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: James Joshua Hudson, Visiting Assistant Professor, Knox College

HIS_8In the waning days of China’s Qing Empire, a riot broke out in Changsha, the capital of Hunan Province. After two years of flooding, a starving woman had drowned herself in desperation after an unscrupulous merchant refused to sell her food at a price she could afford. Three days of rioting followed during which symbols of Qing power were destroyed by an angry mob, which then turned its sights on Changsha’s Western compound. Historians have long assumed the mob was controlled by the landed gentry, but as nearly every dictator knows, a crowd has a mind of its own.

James Joshua Hudson, Visiting Assistant Professor of History at Knox College, describes the riots and some surprising finds he made conducting fieldwork in Hunan that offer a glimpse into the deeply layered tensions on the eve of the downfall of the Qing dynasty.

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Episode 73: The Borderlands War, 1915-20

Host: Joan Neuberger, Professor, Department of History
Guest: John Moran Gonzalez, Associate Professor, Department of English

prospective-farmersIn the early part of the 20th century, Texas became more integrated into the United States with the arrival of the railroad. With easier connections to the country, its population began to shift away from reflecting its origins as a breakaway part of Mexico toward a more Anglo demographic, one less inclined to adapt to existing Texican culture and more inclined to view it through a lens of white racial superiority. Between 1915 and 1920, an undeclared war broke out that featured some of the worst racial violence in American history; an outbreak that’s become known as the Borderlands War.

Guest John Moran Gonzales from UT’s Department of English and Center for Mexican American Studies has curated an exhibition on the Borderlands War called “Life and Death on the Border, 1910-1920,” and tells us about this little known episode in Mexican-American history.

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Roundtable: Antiquities in Danger

Moderator: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Featured Guests: Stephennie Mulder, Department of Art & Art History / Middle Eastern Studies
David Stuart, Department of Art & Art History / Mesoamerican Center
Debora Trein, Department of Anthropology

Placeres-Looting2-335x500Straight from the headlines: ISIS destroys the temple of Bal at Palmyra. Looters steal friezes from Greco-Roman sites in Ukraine under the cover of conflict. A highway is built through an ancient Mayan city in the Guatemalan highlands, the legacy of decades of near-genocidal internal conflict. Why is the loss of human patrimony important, especially in the context of the loss of lives? How can we begin to explain why both are worthy of our consideration? And what can high school or college educators and their students do about it?

Our first roundtable features three experts from the University of Texas who’ve taken the destruction of sites where they’ve worked and lived seriously, and are working to raise awareness of the importance of antiquities in danger around the world, and share simple steps to raise awareness about the problem and how to get involved.

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Episode 71: The Rise and Fall of the Latvian National Communists

Host: Christopher Rose, Assistant Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Mike Loader, Doctoral Candidate, King’s College, London

Eduard Berklavs

For a period in the 1950s known as the Khruschev Thaw, the Soviet Republics enjoyed a brief moment of relative autonomy from the heavy handed leadership of Moscow. Latvia, a small republic on the Baltic Sea, took prime advantage of this period of liberalization under the leadership of a group called the Latvian National Communists. They saw a way forward that diverged considerably from Moscow, and took concrete steps to resist Russification of Latvia’s politics and culture. The Thaw was short lived, however, and the Latvian National Communists were eventually thwarted and the republic brought back into the Soviet fold.

Guest Mike Loader gives an enthusiastic look at this high drama at the peak of the cold war, which gives us a glimpse into the inner workings of the Soviet Union from a different perspective.

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Episode 70: Race, Slavery & Abolition in Iran

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies, UT-Austin
Guest: Beeta Baghoolizadeh, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania

East African slave woman, 19th century.

The untimely death of a black man causes a stir in the press, causing intellectuals and activists to point to a long history of slavery and institutionalized racism in America. This isn’t a headline from 2015 (although it could be); it’s a description of how the Iranian press treated the assassination of Malcolm X. Iran, like many countries in North Africa and West Asia, has its own history of slavery, one that has been slowly forgotten in the century since its abolition; a history that is finally coming to light with a new generation of Iranian and Iranian-American historians.

Beeta Baghoolizadeh, a UT alumna who is now a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Pennsylvania, shares both the history of abolition in Iran and some personal observations on the difficulties of researching a topic long considered taboo in Persian society.

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Episode 69: The Amateur Photography Movement in the Soviet Union

Host: Christopher Rose, Center for Middle Eastern Studies
Guest: Jessica Werneke, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin

How to repair a how to repair Zorkii camera for amateurs. M. Iakovlev, Untitled, black-and-white photographs. Sovetskoe foto no. 1 (January 1959)

In its early days, photography occupied an awkward middle ground between documentation and an art form, a debate which dragged on in the west for decades. The debate took place in the Soviet Union as well, where it was encouraged, discouraged, and then encouraged again in a roller-coaster of official policies between the eras of Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev. This interplay reveals a surprising amount about the lives of the artistically inclined Soviet middle class.

Guest Jessica Werneke has just completed her doctorate that looks at this oft-overlooked aspect of Soviet society, and discusses the turbulent world of amateur photography in the Soviet Union.

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Episode 68: The Russian Empire on the Eve of World War 1

Host: Joan Neuberger, Editor, Not Even Past & Professor, Department of History
Guest: Dominic Lieven, Professor, London School of Economics and Political Science; Fellow, British Academy; Fellow, Trinity College, Cambridge

UnknownWorld War I is often described as “the war to end all wars,” a global conflagration unprecedented in human society whose outbreak reshaped the face of Europe, and led to the collapse of the Russian Empire and the rise of the Soviet Union. But did the war really come out of nowhere? What else was going on in Europe—and around the world—that led to the outbreak of this “global” conflict?

Our guest, Dominic Lieven of the London School of Economics, has spent his career examining problems of political stability in Europe in the 19th century, and the history of the Russian Empire’s waning days, and helps us understand the world on the eve of its first global war.

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