Two historical references for a discussion on the right to keep and bear arms

Battle  of Courcelette
Battle of Courcelette
Like the observer in the tree in the right foreground, painter Louis Weirter witnessed this Somme battle as a soldier. His painting depicts the chaos and complexity of fighting on the Western Front, and the use of combined arms tactics. The capture of the ruined town of Courcelette, France on 15 September 1916 was a significant Canadian victory. It was also the first time tanks (left foreground) were used in battle.
Painted by Louis Alexander Weirter
Beaverbrook Collection of War Art

One of the most controversial discussions in the last few weeks has been the one around guns, its regulation and controls, its production, on the rights to use guns, on private gun ownership and the arguments of those in favor/against the Right to keep and bear arms in the United States of America.  The right to keep and bear arms in that country has a historical significance rooted in a long standing common law, prior even to the existence of their Constitution.  In England, a similar legal wording can be found in the Bill of Rights 1689 which states “Subjects which are Protestants may have Arms for their Defense”.

The historical significance of this argument is long standing and varies from country to country (specially those with a common law system).  The principle behind this topic is the relation of the private ownership (historically contextualized of course) of the “means of force” versus the monopoly of the use of force by government.  Today I have two recommendations on this topic for those of you looking for essays and books to read:

tilly-diagram

The monopoly of the use of force is claimed to be the reason behind why some kings in Europe succeed in wining wars and enriching their countries; and also the reason why others were subjugated and conquered (see the work of War Making and State Making as Organized Crime by Charles Tilly for a complete picture on this topic (online pdf) a Chapter from Bringing the State Back In (1985), edited by Peter Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol).  But also, in a longer historical perspective it has been the monopoly of the use of force by specific authorities which for other authors built/destroyed entire civilizations (see the work of The Shield of Achilles: War, Peace and the Course of History (2002) by Philip Bobbitt).

Have a happy reading!

Will History (and people) love Barack Obama?

In a new 538 post, the author Nate Silver spends a lot of energy proving the unsurprising: that presidents who serve longer, and win larger re-electoral margins, are better regarded by history—or at least by historians.  If this is truth I suppose that the reelection of Barack Obama will confirm it.  The President of the U.S. is about one of the most loved Presidents we have had in the last decades and its correlated hate is also one of the highest.  In the time previous to his election I read hundreds of comments in my Facebook profile explaining how the “World as we know it was going to end if he got the reelection”.  Luckily, the world is still going on and chances are that the ideas of Obama & Co. will continue reigning and being popular.

Contemporary History (specially if read through the American lenses) is quite ridiculous.  Their exceptional-ism is impressive and how they read and understand history is also ludicrous.

More interesting is to read the article by Mr. Silver (whom many consider to be THE professional in his field).  Feel free to continue reading it and prepare yourself to laugh.  The world may not end with Barack Obama… it will just get a little sadder…

The rankings I will refer to here come from a composite of the four most recent surveys in which presidential scholars were asked to rank the presidents. (The surveys were conducted between 2008 and 2011). I’ve averaged the rankings among the four surveys and then re-ranked the presidents from 1 to 43 accordingly. (Ties are broken by the best median ranking; Cleveland is counted only once for these purposes.)

We might divide the presidents into three basic groups: good (those who rank in the top 15), poor (those in the bottom 15) and average (everyone in between).

(Continue reading this article…)

Call for papers: American Studies Association Annual Meeting

I republish information of interest from Blog de la AMHE by Itzayana Gutiérrez

Dear colleagues:

As member of the International Committee of the American Studies Association, I am soliciting panels or individual papers for our upcoming conference (http://www.theasa.net/). Picking up on a now accepted move that transnationalizes the study of the United States, we would encourage analyses of U. S.-Mexican relations (broadly conceived) or that situate an analysis of Mexico in a wider North American perspective using a cultural approach. Among possible topics are those papers examining: how American Studies is approached from outside the United States; whether the current transnational moment in culture study gives us a special purchase on the United States and North America that may not have existed before; how the hardening of borders in politics is matched by a concern for border studies within our academic field. The deadline is Jan 26. See the webpage for more information.

More info (in Spanish): http://www.h-mexico.unam.mx/taxonomy/term/63

Article recommendation: Twentieth Century Flick: Business History in the Age of Extremes

I apologize for posting much these last weeks.  I have been quite busy reading journals on Global Value Chains, Deviant Capitalism, Black Market Trade and theories on Global Political Economy.  While this has driven me nuts… it has also made me pay attention to the field of Business History.

Business history is not the history of Capitalism and it is also not the history of entrepreneurship.  The research in this field is mostly controlled by an European institutionalist approach.  And in the latest decades, it has gained more insights from economic and business studies that are highly afflicted by neo-marxist approaches of the 20th Century.  So, if you are interested in learning about this particular area of research here is the info for a good article on the topic that may get you also interested, and provide you with further bibliography.

Twentieth Century Flick: Business History in the Age of Extremes
Priemel, Kim Christian (2012)
Journal of Contemporary History vol. 47 (4) p. 754-772

.Full Text (PDF)

Conference: Global History of Agrarian Labor Regimes, 1750 to 2000 (Harvard University)

My interest in Agrarian Labor Regimes was first awaken in my research on Opium trade in India. Since then, more readings have made me realize the complex structures behind the history of agrarian labor in a global context.

If you are also interested in the topic, the *Weatherhead Initiative on Global History (WIGH)* at Harvard University is planning a conference for *April 2013* that is focusing on changing labor regimes within global agriculture.

As posted by Blog de la AMHE by Manuel Bautista, they are interested in exploring the diversity of labor regimes, the paths along which they changed, and—most especially—the connections between these changes in different parts of the world. We are interested in work that explores the connected histories of propertied farming, sharecropping, wage labor, slavery, *cultures obligatoires*, and other such forms of labor, and how they have been connected to the spatial and social spread of capitalism.We are seeking proposals from historians, political scientists, economists, sociologists, and anthropologists at all stages of their academic career, including graduate students. We encourage proposals from those in relevant career paths or institutions outside the university. We are particularly interested in forging a global discussion of these topics, and therefore welcome especially contributions from outside North America and Europe.

The conference will try to balance broad comparative papers and revealing case studies. The Weatherhead Initiative on Global History is a newly created center that responds to the growing interest at Harvard in the encompassing study of global history. The Initiative is committed to the systematic scrutiny of developments that have unfolded across national, regional, and continental boundaries as well as to analysis of the interconnections—cultural, economic, ecological and demographic—among world societies. For further information about WIGH as well as the conference, please consult our website at http://wigh.wcfia.harvard.edu.

Proposals should include an abstract of no more than two pages and a brief curriculum vita. Please email your submissions to Jessica Barnard ( jbarnard @ wcfia.harvard.edu ) before *November 30, 2012*. Travel expenses as well as accommodation will be covered.

Holger Droessler hdroessl @ fas.harvard.edu