The Second World War – A War for Empire (4)

In Greece, the British state’s primary aim was to hold the country within the imperialist camp after the defeat of fascism. This meant denying support to the Greek popular resistance movement and ultimately collaborating with pro-fascist elements of Greek society to suppress it with armed force. The Atlantic Charter’s proclaimed “respect [for] the right of all peoples to choose the form of government under which they will live” was trumped by the goals of imperialism and by the secret deal between Churchill and Stalin to carve up post-war Europe.

East Asia in 1939

In Asia the war followed a similar pattern. Continue reading

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The Second World War – A War for Empire (3)

The USA and the UK, just as much as their adversaries, fought the Second World War to defend and extend their imperial power – in defiance of their own proclaimed war aims.

Churchill and Stalin in Moscow, 1942

The most explicit piece of evidence that the liberation of Europe was not an Allied war aim comes from the infamous “percentages agreement” between Churchill and Stalin, a deal struck at the Moscow Conference of 1944. Continue reading

The Second World War – A War for Empire (2)

It is obvious that the war fought by the Axis powers – Germany, Italy, Japan – was an extraordinarily and unprecedentedly savage war of imperial conquest and enslavement. And conversely, according to the “good war” myth, their adversaries – primarily Britain, the USA, the USSR – were therefore fighting:

  • a war of self-defence
  • a war for liberation
  • a war for democracy
  • a war against fascism, racism and genocide

Continue reading

Introducing Edward Gibbon – Part II

Gibbons decline and fall

I do not propose to write in depth at this stage about Edward Gibbon’s intellectual assumptions and preoccupations, as I hope to elucidate these through my reading of his Decline and Fall. But it would be useful to make some preliminary remarks about Gibbon as an Enlightenment thinker. Continue reading

The Greek “fathers of History” – Part I

Who was the “father of History”?

It seems certain that, as long as people have been able to talk, they have talked about events that occurred in the past, and as long as people have been able to record their thoughts in permanent marks, they have written about the past also. But writing history is something different, as I hope to show, and its origins (at least in western Eurasia – I must profess ignorance about other historiographical traditions, inter alia that of China) can be sought in the cities of ancient Greece in the latter half of the 5th century BCE – specifically in the work of two men, Herodotus and Thucydides, our two contenders for the title of “father of History”.

But let us first examine some examples of “pre-historical history” from the same cultural world as Herodotus and Thucydides – the great monarchies of the Near East in the first millennium BCE – in order to illuminate what was new about the historical enterprise of these two Greeks. Continue reading