The publishers of the very popular BBC History magazine, a monthly publication which covers all aspects of history and the past, but mainly with a focus on Britain and Europe, have just launched an exciting new companion magazine entitled World Histories.
Issue no. 1 (Dec 2016/Jan 2017) of the new magazine appeared in UK retail outlets on 30th November. The magazine promises to provide what it calls ‘Fresh Perspectives on Our Global Past’. In an editorial to welcome readers, the new publication’s editor, Matt Elton, notes that one of the inspirations behind the new magazine is the idea put forward by bestselling historian Peter Frankopan that the ‘world is changing’ and, consequently, as Frankopan himself has put it: ‘understanding how and why is the greatest challenge for those who believe that knowing about the past is the key to making sense of the present’.
According to the World Histories editor, each issue of the new magazine will draw on the expertise of leading writers and historians from around the world to help tackle some of the defining issues of the 21st century.
And the launch issue certainly delivers on these ambitions: there is, for example, an article by Oxford Professor Yasmin Khan on how India’s experiences in the Second World War shaped its future for decades afterwards, while author William Dalrymple charts the story of the famous Koh-I-Noor diamond, and what it possibly tells us about the legacy of colonialism. In addition, the award-winning journalist Svetlana Alexiech recounts her fascinating experiences on the ground in the months after the devastating Chernobyl nuclear reactor disaster of 1986, while elsewhere in the issue readers can find material on the artwork of South Africa’s distant past, a panel discussion of why the West seemed to hold sway over global power for centuries (but is this coming to an end?), and the intriguing story of how the final world tour of the Beatles pop group saw them offending audiences in at least three nations.
Moreover, a ‘Briefing’ section offers a very useful overview on the new wave of populism that appears to be gathering momentum across the world, especially in light of the recent shock presidential victory of Donald Trump in the USA, and the worrying rise of anti-immigrant movements in Europe. ‘Populism’, the articles notes, can be tricky to define, but historians appear to agree that one key feature of such movements is that they proclaim themselves to be on the side of ‘the ordinary citizen’ – people who may feel that they are threatened by globalisation, immigration or terrorism, and seem to be fed up with the alleged ‘elitist’ nature of mainstream politics. The article asks whether we have seen comparable populist surges in the past? There is also a handy section on how such populist movements have exploited the new mass media in recent years.
With the added bonus of a ‘Book Reviews’ section and a nicely arranged set of quick entries on the ‘cultural’ aspects of world history, the launch issue of World Histories is both informative and well-designed, and is a great new addition to the various history magazines that are currently available. It will certainly tap into the growing appeal of international history to scholars and students, as well as to the general public who have a big thirst for all things ‘historical’.
A preview of issue no. 2 promises articles on the upcoming 2017 anniversary of the Russian Revolution, a retracing of the steps of an epic historical journey across the Himalayas, and an exploration of the life of Ruth Khama, who is the subject of a major new film. It all sounds very promising. With a price of £6.99, the magazine might be quite financially challenging for some people, but let’s hope the new publication sells well and thrives.