American Historical Review – October, 2010
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The October issue includes an article on the links between the 17th-century English Revolution and the origins of abolitionism, a piece on the granting of independence to Iraq in 1932, and an AHR Forum on “Intimate Life and Sexuality in Mid-Twentieth-Century France.” There are also five featured reviews, followed by our normal extensive book review section. “In Back Issues” calls attention to articles and features in the AHR from one hundred, seventy-five, and fifty years ago.
In “‘Out of the Land of Bondage’: The English Revolution and the Atlantic Origins of Abolition,” John Donoghue intervenes in debates about the origins of slavery as well as of abolitionism in the anglophone Atlantic world. He broadens our historical notion of unfree labor beyond the African and Native American slaves who have long garnered the lion’s share of scholarly attention. Focusing on the protean labor situation of the 17th century, Donoghue recasts indentured servants as “bond slaves” who suffered temporary bondage alongside the Africans and Native Americans subjected to both temporary and permanent forms of bondage. English merchants participated in the African and Native American slave trades, but they also participated in the licit and illicit trafficking of the poor into bonded labor as an important new source of profit and wealth. The essay culminates with a transatlantic network of radicals who condemned economic slavery and slave-trading as part of their critiques of arbitrary government in New and Old England. As Old England plunged into revolution and New England into rebellion, attempts to define the Englishman’s freeborn status against different forms of economic and political “slavery” gained new potency, in both England and the colonies. Donoghue thereby pulls the origins of English abolitionism back to the latter seventeenth century.
“Getting Out of Iraq—in 1932: The League of Nations and the Road to Normative Statehood,” by Susan Pedersen, examines the one single mandated territory—out of 14—to achieve independent statehood while under the jurisdiction of the League of Nations. That was Iraq, in 1932, although it was not granted a genuine form of independence. Instead, the British government sought to cloak its neo-imperial arrangements in the Middle East under the noble rhetoric of self-determination and a specious transfer of formal sovereignty. Pedersen focuses on the international debates and negotiations over Britain’s proposal to “emancipate” Iraq and to support its entry into the League of Nations in 1932. Not only other imperial powers but also the League’s own Permanent Mandates Commission greeted the proposal with skepticism; only through intense negotiation and pressure was Britain able to win international consent to its plan. The end of formal empire and the passage to statehood in this early case of Iraq would have many resonances in decolonization around the world after 1945.
The AHR Forum provides an intensive case study following upon the AHR Forum on “Transnational Sexualities” in the December 2009 issue. Whereas that earlier forum highlighted transnationalism as an important source of scholarly innovation with respect to the study of sexuality, this forum on “Intimate Life and Sexuality in Mid-Twentieth-Century France” places the transnational directly in tension with the national.
The U.S. Army’s regulation of prostitution in occupied France at the end of World War II stands at the center of “The Price of Discretion: Prostitution, Venereal Disease, and the American Military in France, 1944–1946” by Mary Louise Roberts. The management of sexuality was a crucial element not only of postwar transnational conflicts between the U.S. military and the French government, but also of the French government’s struggles to reestablish its control over France in the wake of Germany’s invasion and in the face of American occupation.
In “Comrades in the Labor Room: The Lamaze Method of Childbirth Preparation and France’s Cold War Home Front, 1951–1957, ” Paula A. Michaels examines how Dr. Fernand Lamaze brought a revolutionary new technique of childbirth preparation back to France after a medical tour of the Soviet Union. The transit of the so-called “Lamaze method” to France—in advance of its extraordinary popularity once it crossed the Atlantic to the United States—reveals more than the transnational flow of medical ideas across Cold War barriers, as the relative merits of the “Lamaze method” also figured in postwar domestic debates between the French Communist Party and its political adversaries.
“Sex, Love, and Letters: Writing Simone de Beauvoir, 1949–1963,” by Judith G. Coffin, concerns an outpouring of confessional correspondence to Simone de Beauvoir in response to her publication of The Second Sexin 1949. This was an early phase in Beauvoir’s international celebrity, and especially in the articulation of feminist sensibilities and arguments by the ordinary people who took it upon themselves to write to her. Beauvoir’s global readership stood apart from the controversies she aroused in the French media.
In her comment on the three articles, “Sex, Sovereignty, and Transnational Intimacies,” Judith Surkis concentrates on the analytical relationship between the transnational and the national in the study of sexualities, as well as on the historical relationship between intimate sexualities and formal politics. In attending to how sexed bodies are implicated in a simultaneously national and transnational field of power relations, Surkis seeks to reframe the linkages between sexual knowledge and power, on the one hand, and corporeality and political sovereignty, on the other.
December’s issue will include articles on international humanitarianism in response to the Armenian Genocide and on repercussions of Chinese decolonization for Kazaks, as well as an AHR Forum on “New Perspectives on the Enlightenment.”
Robert A. Schneider, the editor of the AHR, is on sabbatical leave this academic year. Konstantin Dierks and Sarah Knott, faculty in the history department of Indiana University and former associate editors of the journal, are serving as acting editors.
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