World History


“That Execrable Sum of All Villainies”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The June release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes narratives by both a British Army cavalryman and the British Army’s Commander-in-Chief. Also found in this release is an account by an Austrian explorer who was one of the first Europeans to visit Lake Turkana in the Kenyan Rift Valley.  


 

Travels in Western Africa, in 1845 & 1846 (1847) 

By John Duncan 

Scotsman John Duncan served in the British Army’s cavalry and journeyed twice to Africa. During the Niger expedition of 1841 he was struck with a poisoned arrow and suffered from fever but was undaunted. He returned to Africa in 1845 and traveled “from Whydah, through the kingdom of Dahomey, to Adofoodia, in the interior.” 

Duncan uses a regrettable tone to describe some of the peoples he encounters, declaring the Fantee “of all the Africans I have yet seen the laziest and dirtiest….They are remarkably dull of comprehension, and, unless constantly watched, will lie down and do nothing.” Nor is he impressed by their superstition-based approach to medicine. However, Duncan is most disturbed by their exuberant celebrations, writing:  

“That Execrable Sum of All Villainies”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The Body Politic: Public Health and Quality of Life in the Eastern Bloc

In such diverse forums as National Geographic, The Aspen Institute, and the TED-talk series, there has been an active discussion of “blue zones,” initially proposed as five distinct geographic locales where the populace demonstrates greater longevity and a higher quality of life than the norm. The concept was popularized by the author Dan Buettner, and includes areas such as Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; and Loma Linda, California. Conspicuously absent from the list, however, is any location in the former Eastern Bloc.  

In this month's highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we're delving into some of the statistical and qualitative material which might contribute to an understanding of the absence of “red” countries from “blue” zones.  


Comparative Studies on the Frequency of Suicides in the Two German States

Das Deutsche Gesundheitswesen (The German Health Service), Vol. XVI. No. 19, May 1961 

The Body Politic: Public Health and Quality of Life in the Eastern Bloc

The Broad Sweep of Imperialism: As Seen in Open-Source Intelligence Reports from the U.S. Government

Of those Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports that are not strictly technical in nature, it would be fair to say that imperialism is at least an implicit theme throughout.

This month's highlights include scientists seeking to ease tensions between nuclear states, a Swedish view of the Cold War, a caustic Soviet evaluation of Harvard's Russian Research Center, and three reports describing the challenges facing African nations breaking free from colonial relationships. 


The Pugwash Meetings of Scientists—A Soviet View

Vestnik Akademii Nauk, SSSR (Herald of the Academy of Sciences, USSR) Vol. XXXI No. 11, 1961

The Cold War enjoys a September sojourn in Stowe, Vermont, in this report. Nikita Khrushchev sends greetings from home in the form of a two-page letter justifying the resumption of nuclear tests. The title characterizes Pugwash as “meetings,” but today we recognize Pugwash as a movement kicked-off by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein, still vital after 60 years. (10 pages) 


The Cold War

Ny Militar Tidshrift (New Military Journal) Vol. 34 No. 6, 1961 

The Broad Sweep of Imperialism: As Seen in Open-Source Intelligence Reports from the U.S. Government

"Elevating Savages and Barbarians": Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Within the April release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia are an extensive study of the earth and solar system, including several maps of Africa; a report from the superintendent of the London Missionary Society’s stations in South Africa; and an account of an 1834 “visit to Sierra Leone” titled The White Man's Grave.


Modern Geography: A Description of the Empires, Kingdoms, States, and Colonies (1802) 

By John Pinkerton 

Scottish antiquarian, cartographer, author, numismatist, and historian, John Pinkerton was influential in redefining cartography in the early 19th century and remains best known for Pinkerton’s Modern Atlas. Pinkerton is also recognized as an early advocate of Germanic racial supremacy theory. He wrote several books in which he attempts to remove all Celtic elements from Scottish history, arguing the Gaels were a degenerate imposter race. 

"Elevating Savages and Barbarians": Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The April release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a collection of observations on tropical medicine, an anthology of poems by James Montgomery, and an assemblage of laws pertaining to the British West Indies. 


Medical and Miscellaneous Observations, Relative to the West India Islands (1817) 

By John Williamson, M.D.  

Dr. John Williamson was a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians, Edinburgh, and had served as a surgeon for the Caithness Highlanders, a regiment of the Highland Fencible Corps.

In 1798 Williamson traveled to Jamaica where he remained for over a decade. Williamson writes about encountering specific ailments: “The yaws have been long a loathsome and disgusting disease, as well as an immense source of loss to proprietors.” And describes the need for reforming the administration of the island’s health services: “The hospital management of negroes being defective, improvements are suggested, to place these establishments on a foundation consistent with the comfort and welfare of mutual interests.” 

“Thy Chains Are Broken, Africa, Be Free!”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

Exotic China, Canadian Blacks and a Forgotten American War: The Readex Report (April 2016)

In this issue: The first American vessel to reach exotic China sparks nationwide wonder; nineteenth-century Canadian blacks find their voice in the American press; and an unheralded hero from a forgotten American war. 


The “New People” in China: Using Historical Newspapers to Analyze America’s First Contacts with Asia

By Dane Morrison, Professor of Early American History, Salem State University 

Exotic China, Canadian Blacks and a Forgotten American War: The Readex Report (April 2016)

Cold War Tourism: The Sights (and Sites) of Soviet History

In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we’re taking a break from overheated rhetoric on both sides of the Iron Curtain to draw attention to the extraordinary attractions of the former Soviet Union. If, as Tip O’Neill maintained, “all politics is local,” then surely some travel is beneficial for discovering the soul of Russia beyond the slogans and soundbites.   


Guidebook to Moscow Clubs and Houses of Culture (1961) 

Behold, a comprehensive reference to such diverse institutions as the Central House of the Architect, the Club of the Moscow Liquor-Brandy Distillery, the Club of the Low Gas Consumption Automobile Factory, and hundreds of other social and industrial societies circa 1961. This guide comes complete with addresses, telephone numbers, transit connections, and summary paragraphs of the attractions. For an adventurous traveller, it would provide an unorthodox and fascinating means of exploring Moscow off the beaten track and from a unique historical perspective. (163 pages) 


Instructions for Patients at Health Resorts in the Ukraine (1962) 

Cold War Tourism: The Sights (and Sites) of Soviet History

“The Iron Hand of Persecution”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

The April release of Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922: From the Library Company of Philadelphia includes an English minister's examination of the "United States of America and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies," published in 1796. This work includes the color plate of a tobacco plant seen to the right. Also highlighted below are works printed in London offering two perspectives on the slave trade between Africa and the Caribbean.   


An Historical, Geographical, Commercial, and Philosophical View of the United States of America and of the European Settlements in America and the West-Indies (1796) 

By William Winterbotham 

“The Iron Hand of Persecution”: Highlights from Afro-Americana Imprints, 1535-1922

“Power, Grandeur, and Oppression”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The February release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a compilation of travel literature written by several African explorers and two multi-volume works by Edward Delaval Hungerford Elers Napier. 


The Modern Traveller (1800)  

By William Fordyce Mavor 

William Fordyce Mavor (1758-1837) was a teacher, politician, and priest. Introducing his four volumes of travel literature, Mavor writes: 

Valuable as these productions are, yet the size and expense of the volumes preclude many readers of curiosity, intelligence, and knowledge, from being able conveniently to purchase such sources of gratification….To accommodate those who may be desirous of being acquainted with modern discoveries, without choosing to be at such an expense, the object of the present publication is to present, in an abridged form, the most remarkable travels and voyages, which have recently afforded important accessions to our acquaintance with countries and mankind. 

“Power, Grandeur, and Oppression”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Benjamin Pogrund on the Rand Daily Mail: Former Deputy Editor Reflects on the Newspaper’s Critical Role in the Anti-Apartheid Movement

Guest post by

Benjamin Pogrund, former deputy editor, Rand Daily Mail

[Editor’s note: For decades Benjamin Pogrund served as the Rand Daily Mail’s African Affairs Reporter. He closely covered the issues and events that profoundly impacted South Africa’s black population, including the 1960 Sharpeville massacre. Pogrund later served as Deputy Editor from 1977 until the Mail’s closure in 1985. In the comments below, Pogrund—recipient of the 2005-06 Dr. Jean Mayer Global Citizenship Award—provides firsthand insight into the outsized role the Rand Daily Mail played during the struggle to end apartheid.] 

The Rand Daily Mail was ahead of its time in reporting and exposing apartheid evils and in opposing oppressive government. This is why it was shut down. 

Benjamin Pogrund on the Rand Daily Mail: Former Deputy Editor Reflects on the Newspaper’s Critical Role in the Anti-Apartheid Movement

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