My reading list, May 14-21: The Evil British Empire, Don’t Blame Sykes-Picot, Ethics Scandals, and more

The blog has been very quiet as I’ve been overwhelmed with work. Nevertheless, I break from my grading- and writing-induced haze to suggest to you some provocative and thoughtful articles from the past week that have caught my attention (and also to get some tabs closed on my browser).

The British Empire, pro and con

Alan Lester, 13 May, Britain should stop trying to pretend that its empire was benevolent. Actually quite a good article, and worth reading. I get a bit antsy when clicking on a British empire article, because I can’t tell immediately whether it’s going to be an “empires suck, should not be valorized, and are always made by coercion and atrocity” piece or a “Britain is responsible for the world’s suffering” kind of article. Though, as Owen Jones reminded us in 2012, they were responsible for a damn lot of it. On the other hand, so were the Manchu–anyone who has read Tobie Meyer Fong’s or Stephen Platt’s books on the Taiping Civil War, or Dahpon Ho’s work on Qing scorched-earth policy in the 1600s knows that.

Steven A. Cook and Amr T. Lehta, 13 May, Don’t blame Sykes-Picot for the Middle East’s Mess. Speaking of…A timely article calling out those who want to hang everything in the Middle East on Britain, and to a lesser extent, France. Funny, since Ian Bremmer has a different opinion… (I’ll have a collection of articles on Sykes-Picot soon, since May 19 was the hundred-year anniversary of it).

Higher Education

Katie Rose Guest Pryal, 19 May, The Secret Life of the Doctoral Student. I have a lot of opinions on this piece, some positive, some negative. But I’ll save that for another day.

Craig Brandist, 5 May, The risks of Soviet-style managerialism in UK universities. Sounds about right. Also why my interest in pursuing job opportunities in the UK, assuming I was lucky enough to even get an interview, has plummeted in the last few months.

Katie J. M. Baker, 20 May, Ethics and the Eye of the Beholder. Allegations that Yale’s world-famous ethics professor Thomas Pogge has been abusing his position to coerce sexual favors from female grad students. For years. Currently directing the Global Justice Program. In my favorite military phrase, this, people is why we can’t have nice things.

Lorenzo Perez, 17 May, Recent book edited by Slavic faculty member offers new approach to area studies. Very interesting, and on my to-get list.

Hunter R. Rawlings III, 10 May, What’s right and wrong about research universities. After five years as president of the AAU, he has some interesting conclusions about higher education in America (no surprise that intercollegiate athletics are “incredibly perilous”).

Politics and political philosophy

The Jacobin–The ABC’s of Socialism. Oh joy. Socialism is my cup of tea about as much as the joyous rhetorical excesses of Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. That is to say, not much, Both are ideological, rather than strictly rational, positions, regardless of what both sides say.

And two articles foretelling the arrival of Fascist America, come November 4 (especially if a lot of Sandersniks pull a 1968 and boycott the election):

Robert Kagan, 18 May, This is how fascism comes to America. Now, Kagan is a good neocon, so I take what he says with a grain of salt.

Adam Gopnik, 20 May, The dangerous acceptance of Donald Trump. “If Trump comes to power, there is a decent chance that the American experiment would be over.” Strong words.

European Politics

Gideon Rachman, 13 May, Rival historians trade blows over Brexit. Very interesting article–I’d lost track of the whole “Historians for Britain” and “Historians for Europe” hullabaloo.  We’ll see where this all goes.

Tim King, 21 May, Brexit campaign is a battle for the past as well as for the future. Suddenly, history is actually important…

And actual history stuff, just because…

Elizabeth Pennisi, 17 May, Frozen Scythian stallions unravel mysteries of horse domestication. Timely with some of my own research.