The publishers of the very popular BBC History magazine, a monthly publication which investigates all aspects of history and the past, recently launched an exciting new companion magazine entitled World Histories, and issue no. 7 of this has just been published in the UK.
The magazine, which in its launch issue promised to provide what the editor called ‘Fresh Perspectives on Our Global Past’, more than delivers on this objective in the new seventh issue (issue no. 7, December, 2017/January, 2018).
A key feature of the new issue is a focus on the question ‘Why is America still haunted by its past?’ Four articles are provided to try and answer this challenging question, covering some key moments in U.S. history: one article, by Adam IP Smith, covers the American Revolution and the Civil War (making important historical links between the two), while the second article, with contributions by three U.S. historians, explores how America continues to wrestle with issues of race, religion, liberty and equality.
The third article, by Benjamin Houston, provides discussion of the 1992 LA riots, which have been described as the worst domestic insurrection in U.S. history. A fourth piece on America, penned by Rosalind Rosenberg, revisits the life of Pauli Murray (1910-1985), a lawyer, priest and feminist, who became a champion of racial and gender equality after her grim experiences of growing up in the racially segregated U.S. south.
For those with a deep interest in American history, the latest edition of World Histories will be a must-have purchase. As the editor of the magazine observes, all nations are to some extent defined by their past – ‘but the United States seems to have a particularly complex relationship with its history’.
Elsewhere in the new issue, the reader will find articles on global relationships, the first Greek expedition to Britain and the Arctic, the launch of Sputnik by the Russians in 1957 (a truly momentous event which, according to Mark Shanahan, marked the start of the ‘space race’ between the USSR and USA), and the myths and realities of the Aztecs. There is also an important piece on the Nazi quest for the supernatural, by Eric Kurlander. The latter article is based on his new book Hitler’s Monsters: A Supernatural History of the Third Reich, which was published this year by Yale University Press and has received high praise from the critics. In Kurlander’s estimation, the ideology of the Nazis partly found inspiration in Nordic mythology, paganism and occult beliefs. He argues: ‘One cannot understand the history of the Third Reich without understanding this relationship between Nazism and the supernatural’.
Similarly, for those with an interest in the musical and cultural history of the 20th century, Des Shaw offers an intriguing discussion of how the historical, cultural and social landscape of the city of Berlin helped shape one of the late musician David Bowie’s most important albums, Heroes, which he recorded in the German capital in 1977.
According to Shaw, the sense of foreboding that arose from Bowie recording so close to the Berlin Wall had an impact on the music that Bowie was creating. Bowie was attracted by the air of danger and intrigue that seemed to grip the German city in the mid-1970s. Moreover, the album’s title track has arguably come to be seen by music aficionados as something of a rock classic.
As with the previous issues, the new seventh issue of World Histories also contains a ‘Briefing Section’ where leading expert opinions are given on some of the historical issues behind today’s news, including a piece by Alex von Tunzelmann on the image of Che Guevara 50 years after his death, and some thoughts by Niall Ferguson on the impact of social networks today and their historical ancestors.
With plenty of other articles and news items, the new edition of World Histories is well worth consideration. Retailing at an eye-watering price of £6.99, it might be financially challenging for some students, but it is arguably still a bargain for all those who have a fascination for our global past.
The December, 2017/January 2018 issue of World Histories is on sale now.
(All images: WikiMedia Commons)