World History


Foreign Broadcast Information Service: A Brief Overview of Its Daily Reports and Their Value for International Studies

From 1941 to 1996 the U.S. government published the Daily Report of the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS). FBIS was begun in 1941 as a means of letting the government know what propaganda was being broadcast into the U.S. by the shortwave radio services of the foreign governments involved in the European war.

Broadcasts deemed of potential interest to U.S. government officials were selected for translation into English. Political, economic and war news dominated the first years of FBIS. Broadcasts were either transcribed in their entirety, in part, or were briefly summarized. Every day a Daily Report was published and delivered. After World War II the number of FBIS sources grew, and the size of the Daily Report ballooned. In the early 1970s FBIS Daily Reports began to be delivered in Regional Reports whose names changed over time. Sources now included newspapers and television news shows as well as radio broadcasts.

Graham E. Fuller, a former C.I.A. official, wrote about FBIS Reports in a Consortium News piece entitled, “Value in Reading Others’ Propaganda,” which was published online on September 29, 2015. In this piece Fuller writes:

Indeed there was an entire branch of CIA which monitored and published on a daily basis a thick booklet of selected broadcast items from around the world—available by subscription. The Foreign Broadcast Information Service provided an invaluable service. It is now sadly defunct, the victim of short-sighted budget cutting—an operation which probably cost less annually than one fighter aircraft and offered much more.

Foreign Broadcast Information Service: A Brief Overview of Its Daily Reports and Their Value for International Studies

“Mingled Puerility and Brutality”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The September release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes several multi-volume works detailing various regions and peoples of Africa.


Maritime Geography and Statistics: A Description of the Ocean and its Coasts, Maritime Commerce, Navigation, &c. &c. &c. (1815)

By James Hingston Tuckey, a commander in the Royal Navy

James Hingston Tuckey’s four-volume work is a tour de force describing the world’s oceans and coasts. Tuckey, born in 1776, joined the Royal Navy in 1793 and by the turn of the century was assisting in the expansion of the British colony of New South Wales in Australia. In 1805, after having returned briefly to England, Tuckey was captured by the French near St. Helena in the South Atlantic and held prisoner for nearly nine years. If not for his imprisonment, it is unlikely that Tuckey’s Maritime Geography and Statistics would have been written:

If it should be asked how a naval officer could, during the activity of war, find leisure to compile a work requiring the perusal of many thousand volumes, the answer is unfortunately too ready: it was undertaken to pass away the tedious hours of a hopeless captivity, alike destructive of present happiness and future prospects.

In Volume II, Tuckey turns his attention to the coast of West Africa, writing:

After passing the limits of Morocco, the first nation met with is the Moors of the Desert, who inhabit the coast from Cape Agulon to the Senegal, and form three tribes. Though they acknowledge the Emperor of Morocco as their sovereign, they are in every respect independent of his government or power. They lead an erratic life, their habitations being conical tents of cloth manufactured of camel’s hair, which they move about in search of pasture for their cattle.

“Mingled Puerility and Brutality”: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

Constitutions and Constituents: Syria, the Soviet Union, and Security

An interesting dynamic is playing out on the world stage between Syria, Germany, and Russia. In a dramatic historical turn, a unified and economically resurgent Germany is welcoming Syrian refugees even as post-Soviet Russia redoubles its support for Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal suppression of the fruits of the “Damascus Spring.”

To provide some context to current events, in this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we offer West German and Soviet political commentaries on state power, and a core document, the 1962 Constitution of the Syrian Arab Republic.

From JPRS ReportsSoviet Press Parallels Chinese Communist and Western Militarists
Izvestiya (News), Moscow – 25 September 1963

Citing Clauswitz’s dictum that “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” in the September 25, 1963, issue of Izvestiya, commentator Boris Dmitriyev claimed that on the question of nuclear war, both China and the United States were in favor of it. On the one hand, in his argument for the peaceful aspirations of the Soviet Union, the writer recognizes that “nuclear missiles have fundamentally changed the nature of modern warfare;” on the other, the USSR had just the previous year been discovered placing missiles in Cuba. With China and the Soviet Union locked in a bitter controversy over the true nature of communist orthodoxy, one might wonder whether the missiles removed from Cuba were usefully redeployed on the Asian continent—pointed east.

Constitutions and Constituents: Syria, the Soviet Union, and Security

Marxism ex Machina: Pulling Back the Curtain on Soviet Economics

Nikita Khrushchev with the Swedish Prime Minister Tage Erlander in a rowing boat, 1964 by Arne Schweitz/ScanpixIt’s notable during the run-up to America’s presidential primaries that the candidates include uber-capitalist Donald Trump and the self-described socialist senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. Their competing ideologies underscore the great extent to which America’s political economy appeals both to naked self-interest and to popular concerns for social goods—but still goes by the name “capitalism.” Conversely, behind the utopian rhetoric of communism, the Soviet Union regularly appealed to the workers’ acquisitive desires. And when the Communist Party’s vaunted planning didn’t pan-out in the marketplace—out it went!

In this month's highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, we expose some of the arcane machinery underlying the seemingly monolithic communism of the Soviet Union, beginning with the machine shop itself.

Marxism ex Machina: Pulling Back the Curtain on Soviet Economics

Hitler, Heroes, and Harmony: Newly Digitized Reports from the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

In this month’s release of JPRS Reports, 1957-1994, we’re exploring psychology—dark & light, hortative & theoretical, aspirational and actual.


Hitler’s Former Headquarters Now a Tourist Attraction in Poland

On a road in Rastenburg (now Ketrzyn), Poland, past the wild swans and the birches, the Polish Society for Tourism and Home Lore erected a sign leading travelers to the “Wolf’s Lair.” Upon arrival in 1963, for the price of ten zloty the curious visitor could tour the numbered ruins of the massive complex of reinforced concrete which served as Adolf Hitler’s headquarters from 1941-1944, where the Fuhrer narrowly escaped an assassination attempt. The presence of schoolgirls and wild strawberries are noted among the graves and mine fields in this short, poignant report.


From JPRS ReportsThe Lei Feng Campaign: A Pictorial Report on a Chinese Communist Hero

Lei Feng was literally the poster child for Chinese communism beginning in February 1963, although there is disagreement as to the existence of the actual person depicted. Some of the visual details were lost during the reproduction process, but there’s still a great deal to be learned through the captions and especially the numerous cartoons. If you’ve seen this Chinese Everyman once, you’ll recall having seen him a thousand times, which was the point, after all, as he was held to be the best guide and highest realization of the ideal communist citizen.

From JPRS Reports

Hitler, Heroes, and Harmony: Newly Digitized Reports from the Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

San Francisco Conference Founds the United Nations: A Look Back through Three Readex Collections


From America's Historical Newspapers

Beginning on April 25, 1945, as World War II entered its final months, delegates from dozens of nations gathered at the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Their goal was the creation of an international organization that would lessen the chances of a third global conflict.  The meeting’s official name was the United Nations Conference on International Organization (UNCIO), but it was more typically called the San Francisco Conference.  

The participants debated the institutional framework that had been negotiated earlier in the year by the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom and the United States at Dumbarton Oaks in Washington, D.C.  Chaired by U.S. diplomat Alger Hiss, and addressed by President Harry Truman, the San Francisco Conference ultimately produced the United Nations Charter, which was signed on June 26, 1945.

Readex collections offer three different ways to see real-time accounts of this historic meeting. The first is through the daily press accounts in America’s Historical Newspapers.  The actions of the delegates in the build-up to the final charter can be traced through news stories, editorials, opinion columns, photographs and cartoons.

San Francisco Conference Founds the United Nations: A Look Back through Three Readex Collections

From the Earth to the Moon: New Heights of Human Achievement from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

From JPRS ReportsWe’re approaching escape velocity from a variety of perspectives this month. Is it the Moon you’re wanting to visit, or would you be content with achieving a few Earth orbits to advance your country’s standing in the Space Race? June’s highlights are about flight—aspirational, actual, and perceptual.

A New Assault on the Moon is Coming Soon

The Space Race was in progress and the Russians were winning. Shortly before his death, President Kennedy had announced his intention to send Americans to the Moon. But the Soviet Union had already taken the first pictures of the Moon’s dark side and had executed a “hard landing” with telemetry, whereas all the United States had managed was the very hard landing of Ranger 6 with video inexplicably out of commission. Was the Moon covered with dust to the extent of several meters that would bury future landers—and astronauts—or was the surface more firm and amenable to unmanned and manned visitors? This brief report from Bulgaria shows how confident the Soviet Union was in its technological, and by extension, its political systems.


Diary of a Pilot-Cosmonaut

In 1963 the Soviets would put the first woman into space and send two spacecraft into orbit at the same time—twice—while the United States was working on sending two astronauts into space in the same capsule with Project Gemini. This 43-page report is a colloquial account of life as a Russian cosmonaut, enigmatically attributed to “K.” in the Russian title.

From the Earth to the Moon: New Heights of Human Achievement from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports

“Like a Tiger in the Toils”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

The June release of Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes a biography of the “Terror of Jamaica,” a letter from British slavery apologists justifying continuation of the institution in the Bahamas, and the descriptions of an English naturalist.


The Life and Exploits of Three-Finger'd Jack, the Terror of Jamaica (1801)

By William Burdett

 

To some, Jack Mansong was the most feared runaway slave in Jamaica during the 1700s. In fact, Mansong was so infamous his life has been the subject of several books, two of which became bestsellers, and dramatic performances, such as the musical Obi which had a run of at least nine years in British theatres. William Burdett’s work begins by describing Mansong’s early life in Africa and his eventual capture and enslavement:

Mansong, with gleaming saber, like a tiger in the toils, darted on the foremost, and cleft him to the ground. The weapons of his adversaries clashed over his head; but he heeded not death, and struggled hard to break the chains that encircled him. He still fought, and his blood streamed around; till at length quite exhausted, he fell, covered with wounds; and four of his adversaries lay dead beside him. The others bound up his wounds, and, with the rest of his party, sent him to the caravan of a Slatee, or Slave-merchant.

Burdett continues, writing of Mansong’s arrival in Jamaica as a slave, his unbreakable spirit, and his promise to seek revenge against his captors:

“Like a Tiger in the Toils”: Highlights from Caribbean History and Culture, 1535-1920

Ascent of the White Nile and Other 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 perspectives from an Irish pastor in Western Africa, the biography of a Dutch heiress who explored North Africa, and the views of an English soldier in Central Africa.


Missions in Western Africa, among the Soosoos, Bulloms, &c. (1845)

By Rev. Samuel Abraham Walker

Reverend Samuel Abraham Walker described himself as “a man unknown to fame, and of no higher standing in the Church, or the world, than the pastor of a small rural parish in Ireland.” Walker felt duty bound to become a missionary and offered this justification for choosing to work in West Africa:

It is impossible, I conceive, to overrate the importance of our West African Mission: its effects, if the Lord continues to bless it, will be gigantic. In other countries the Gospel merely calls out members of the Church; but in Africa it is enlisting whole regiments of Missionary soldiers, and sending them forth armed and accoutered, to engage in deadly conflict with the demon of superstition, crime, and death; and the facilities afforded for this particular work are among the most remarkable evidences of providential arrangement which the history of the Church of Christ supplies.

Walker’s tome tells of the peoples of West Africa, offers a history of slavery, and recounts, in Walker’s words, “What attempts have been made in modern times to make Christ known to the natives of this vast continent?”

True to his cause, Walker saw Christianity as a panacea. Expounding on the power found in the Christian will and in the word of God, Walker wrote:

Ascent of the White Nile and Other Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

What Not to Wear?: “China’s General Chiang Issues Ten Style Commandments for Women”

Chiang Kai-shek. Source: National Archive Press. via Wikimedia CommonsIn the mid-1930s, when he presented these fashion rules, Chiang Kai-shek was political leader of the Chinese Nationalist Party, head of the country's army, and nominally China’s leader. China, however, was divided into competing factions: besides Chiang's forces, the Communists controlled the province of Jiangxi, and the Japanese were encroaching into the northeast region. At the end of 1934, when the article below was published in the Seattle Times, Chiang's armies were making their fifth attempt to encircle the Communists in Jiangxi, a successful effort that led to the famous Long March. The Long March, the Communist armies' meandering retreat under pressure to Shaanxi, lead to Mao Zedong becoming political leader of the Communists, with Zhou Enlai’s support, and Zhu De becoming military leader. They would remain in these roles for the rest of the Chinese Civil War.

Seattle Times, Dec. 9, 1934
In December 1934, Chiang had a busy life. He probably shouldn't have tried to prescribe a wardrobe makeover for his country’s women. As the article puts it:

What Not to Wear?: “China’s General Chiang Issues Ten Style Commandments for Women”

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