The Cambridge History of Australia

A major multi-authored history of Australia appears once in a generation. The celebrated and contested bicentenary of British colonisation in 1988 marked the last effort: Australians: A Historical Library , which sliced the nation’s past at 50-year intervals from 1788 onwards. Now we have an updated picture of the ‘land down under’ fit for the 21st century.Read more »
More articles by Eureka Henrich

Did Britain Fail Hong Kong?

Hong Kong student strike on 23 September 2014. By Voice of America [Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsAt midnight on June 30th, 1997 Hong Kong reverted from British control back to China. Looking back, did Britain fail the people of Hong Kong?

To answer this question it is important to understand the relative balance of power between China and the United Kingdom. During the 19th century Britain was in its heyday. The Royal Navy could project her power to any seaport in the world. Britain was able to coerce China into signing the treaties that acquired Hong Kong and leased the New Territories for 99 years. By the late 1970s, those days were long gone. Delicate negotiation, rather than gunboat diplomacy, was Britain’s best hope of keeping control of Hong Kong.

Much has been made of Prime Minister Thatcher’s visit to Hong Kong in September 1982. Images of her tripping on the steps at the Great Hall of the People and reports of Deng Xiaoping’s irritation at her proposal of keeping a British presence in Hong Kong, have been well documented and criticised. However before Margaret Thatcher even arrived in Beijing, the British had encountered Deng’s ire over Hong Kong. Deng had made clear his intention to re-acquire Hong Kong and the New Territories to Hong Kong Governor Sir Murray Maclehose in 1979.

More articles by Thomas Benge
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Inventing the Military-industrial Complex

Did physics make the torpedo possible? Barry Parker’s book, The Physics of War , primarily an explanation of the principles of physics behind how different weapons work, claims that it did. Yet Katherine Epstein’s book, Torpedo , a detailed, empirical history of the torpedo in Britain and the United States before the First World War, features no physicists. Instead, Epstein introduces the reader to an array of engineers and non-technical staff, whose decisions were much more than narrow technical judgments.Read more »
More articles by Hermione Giffard

The Cold War in South Asia

British academic interest in post-colonial South Asia has long lacked the rigour found in works dedicated to the region and its people prior to 1947. Essential questions around the relative influence of Britain (and later the United States) in the history and making of independent India and Pakistan remain cloudy at best. In fact, for South Asia, there is no ready comparison to the likes of John Lewis Gaddis ( The Cold War ) or David Hoffman ( The Dead Hand ). In some ways this is a curious state of affairs.Read more »
More articles by Rudra Chaudhuri

Nixon, Kissinger and a Forgotten Genocide

The 1971 Bangladesh genocide is little remembered, although it was almost as bad as Rwanda. It turned the Cold War story of freedom-loving US versus the oppressive Soviet Union on its head. The land of the free was in a shameful alliance with the killers, while the evil empire was on the side of the angels.Read more »

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Mirror Year: How Old Are You Really?

An eighteenth-century clockLife is short, but not that short. To put your lifespan into historical perspective - and for an intellectual ice-bucket challenge - try this quick calculation. You may find the results startling.

Start with the year you were born, then simply subtract your age. The result is your 'mirror year'. For example, if you’ve recently turned 25 then subtract that number from the year 1989 to get a mirror year of 1964.

Why do that? Well, the calculation gives an intriguing way of looking at your life thus far. No doubt 1964 seems an unfathomably long time ago to a 25-year-old but in fact that person's date of birth is equidistant between then and now. In other words, if you're 25 then the start of your life is as close to the release of the Beatles LP A Hard Day’s Night as it is to Beyonce's latest single. And if, like so many of us, you’re the wrong side of 25, your mirror year recedes even further into the past – to a sometimes staggering degree.

More articles by Chris Lowry
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Tiananmen Remembered

As the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen protests passed this year, the topic continues to be a taboo in China. Even so, former participants, eyewitnesses and others still remember what they are supposed to forget. Their memories undermine the official party line, yet they are in the minority in a country that has undergone a phenomenal economic and social transformation since the early 1990s.Read more »
More articles by Jennifer Altehenger