The United Nations: Managing and Re-shaping a New World Order (2020)

Amitav Acharaya & Dan Plesch

Global Governance, 26 (2). pp. 221-235

OpenAccess version here.

…One should not wait for these challenges to imperil the world to the point of no return before reviving it and strengthening it in the face of the current attack from populists and “patriots” (to use Trump’s words). At the same time, Nehru’s warning about the great powers’ tendency to return to their old man- ners of power play despite an apparent show of unity in facing a common danger should remind us that cooperation cannot be based on short-term cal- culations. Great powers, this time including rising powers like India and China, should lead and be led by others to correct the deficit of multilateralism as the world moves through a momentous period of power transition and transna- tional imperilment….


1945’s Lesson: ‘Good-Enough’ Global Governance Ain’t Good Enough (2015)

Dan Plesch & Tom Weiss

Global Governance, 21 (2). pp. 197-204.

OpenAccess version here.

The 70th anniversary of the signing and entry into force of the UN Charter should call attention to the historical underpinnings of contemporary global governance. Today’s fashion of “good-enough” global governance abandons the strategy of constructing robust intergovernmental organizations; and it is not good enough, especially because our forebears did much better. Insights from 1942 to 1945 remain valid for addressing twenty-first century global challenges. But do we have the wit and will to do what is necessary without a global conflagration?

How in Myanmar “National Races” Came to Surpass Citizenship and Exclude Rohingya (2017)

Nick Cheesman

Journal of Contemporary Asia 47, no. 3

Link behind a paywall here.

The idea of “national races” or taingyintha has animated brutal conflict in Myanmar over who or what is “Rohingya.” But because the term is translated from Burmese inconsistently, and because its usage is contingent, its peculiar significance for political speech and action has been lost in work on Myanmar by scholars writing in English. Out of concern that Myanmar’s contemporary politics cannot be understood without reckoning with taingyintha, in this article I give national races their due. Adopting a genealogical method, I trace the episodic emergence of taingyintha from colonial times to the present. I examine attempts to order national races taxonomically, and to marry the taxonomy with a juridical project to dominate some people and elide others through a citizenship regime in which membership in a national race has surpassed other conditions for membership in the political community “Myanmar.” Consequently, people who reside in Myanmar but are collectively denied citizenship – like anyone identifying or identified as Rohingya – pursue claims to be taingyintha so as to rejoin the community. Ironically, the surpassing symbolic and juridical power of national races is for people denied civil and political rights at once their problem and their solution.

‘Cape Town Knows, but She Forgets’: Segregation and the Making of a Housing Crisis during the First Half of the 20th Century (2018)

Wayne Dooling

Journal of Southern African Studies, 44 (6). pp. 1057-1076.

OpenAccess version here.

The city of Cape Town experienced a severe housing crisis during the first half of the 20th century, the immediate origins of which were to be found in demographic growth fuelled by natural increase as well as inward migration. The deeper roots of the crisis, however, were in the policy of segregation. This article examines the consequences of the housing shortage for the city’s black population and is concerned with segregation as lived experience. The crisis, the scale of which was much greater than previously appreciated, was at its worst during the interwar years. As local state action failed to keep pace with segregatory legislation, the overwhelming majority of the city’s population lived under circumstances that could only be described as wretched. For the majority of Cape Town’s black population, the segregationist state of the interwar years was simply absent from the housing market.

Housing, planning and urban health: Historical and current perspectives from South Africa (2020)

Job Gbadegesin, Michael Pienaar, Lochner Marais

Bulletin of Geography. Socio-economic Series | Volume 48: Issue 48

OpenAccess article here.

Globally, policymakers often describe informal settlements and slums in terms of health problems. In this paper we trace the way housing and planning have been linked to health concerns in the history of South Africa and we assess post-apartheid literature on the topic. We note that researchers continue to rely on a biomedical understanding of the relationship between housing, planning and health although, we argue, the links between them are tenuous. We propose the capabilities approach as a way to understand this relationship. Reframing the relationship between housing, planning and health within the capabilities approach may improve the current understanding of this link.

A Century of South African Housing Acts 1920–2020 (2020)

Alan Mabin

Urban Forum volume 31, pages453–472

OpenAccess Article available here.

A century ago, South Africa’s first national scheme for financing public housing passed into law. The Housing Act, number 35 of 1920, created a fund administered by a Central Housing Board, from which municipalities could borrow to support construction of houses at a lower interest rate than available elsewhere. The Act came in the aftermath of the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918–1919; the Parliament passed the law on 13 August 1920 and it came into effect a few days later. In the circumstances of 2020, millions of publicly subsidized houses later, and in the midst of a global pandemic, this article reflects on a century of public, or state, housing finance, through housing laws and practices that commenced 100 years ago. The article reviews the circumstances of health, housing, economy and politics in the 1918–1920 period. Themes emerge of public health, social control, racism and segregation, but also social democratic and anti-statist ideas. The article then briefly draws such themes through the twentieth century and beyond, leading to a consideration of the circumstances that prevail in the field in 2020, once more in contested conditions of pandemic, scarcity and poverty. The sources of the article include official reports and similar documents, secondary literature and some archival material. The method is historical and discursive.

Learning from the History of British Interventions in the Middle East (2018)

Louise Kettle

Interrogates whether the British government has learned anything from its interventions in the Middle East, from the 1950s to 2016

Learning from history helps states to create foreign and security policy that builds upon successes and avoids past mistakes. Drawing on a wealth of previously unseen documents, sourced by Freedom of Information requests, together with interviews with government and intelligence agency officials, Louise Kettle questions whether the British government has learned anything from its military interventions in the Middle East. She provides an extended commentary on military interventions in the Middle East since the 1950s, including a behind-the-scenes glimpse into Whitehall decision-making and a critical examination of the 2016 Iraq Inquiry report.

Publisher webpage here.

Does the British Government Learn from the History of Military Interventions? (2019)

Naomi Farmer

In 2003, shortly after the the Iraq War began, British PM Tony Blair delivered a speech to the US Congress. In this speech, he announced that the use of history in developing foreign policy was defunct. For him, at the beginning of what would become the most controversial and criticised war of a generation, there had never been a time when ‘a study of history provides so little instruction for our present day’.

Online blogpost here.

Campaigning for change: lessons from history (2015)

OpenAccess can be downloaded on this page.

Historians and campaigners explore the history of campaigning – and what lessons may be drawn for fighting modern-day causes.

Whatever your political viewpoint you probably think that there is much in the world that needs changing.

Campaigning for change is a necessary activity – although one which is under attack in many parts of the world.

This ebook provides inspiration from some of the great British campaigns of the past – from the anti-slavery movement, to free-trade campaigners, to the suffragettes, to campaigns for homosexual equality.

Written by leading academics at the History & Policy Network and Friends of the Earth this book draws lessons for campaigners and historians alike.

History can’t provide us with templates for modern-day campaigns but we can learn some lessons from it.

As 19th-century Russian historian Vasily Klyuchevsky said “History teaches us nothing, but only punishes for not learning its lessons”.


Britain’s Anti-Slavery Campaigns, 1787-1838, 25 Richard Huzzey, Durham University

Chartism, Malcolm Chase, University of Leeds

The Anti-Corn Law Campaign, Henry Miller, Durham University

The Campaign against the Contagious Diseases Acts, Dr Jane Jordan, Kingston University

Fighting for the Franchise: The Campaign for Women to Obtain the Vote,
Sarah Richardson, University of Warwick

Opposition to Irish Home Rule, 1885-1922, Luke Blaxill, University of Oxford

Campaigning for homosexual rights in 20th-century Britain,
Lucy Delap, University of Cambridge

Mary Whitehouse, the National Viewers’ and Listeners’ Association and social movement campaigning,
Lawrence Black, University of York

The Miners’ Strike in Britain, 1984-85,  Jim Phillips, University of Glasgow