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BBC World Histories MagazineBBC World Histories Magazine

BBC World Histories Magazine Issue 15

BBC World Histories magazine is the new global history title from the BBC History Magazine team. Each issue, we delve into a diverse range of topics – from ancient Greek expeditions and the Aztec civilisation to the Cold War and the space race. Our team of international experts explores key historical events, remarkable personalities and the stories behind today’s headlines, taking you on a tour across centuries and continents.

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Immediate Media Company London Limited
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There are few more striking examples of history becoming political than the story of Rutger Bregman, the Dutch author at the centre of a media storm earlier this year. His 2017 book Utopia for Realists explores how historical political ideas could rejuvenate today’s divided world. As such, he might seem the perfect guest for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, which brings together politicians, business moguls and thought-leaders in an idyllic Swiss Alpine town. Yet his contribution was not met with universal approval. The fallout made headlines around the world, led to a memorably testy exchange between Bregman and a US TV news anchor, and catapulted the idea of the ‘public historian’ back into the limelight. Bregman shares his take on the experience, and his arguments for why more historians…

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Rutger Bregman “I think history is one of the most subversive sciences: it shows us that things can be different – that there’s nothing inevitable about the way things are right now,” says the historian and writer. On page 11 he discusses how he ruffled feathers at the World Economics Forum, and why historians should speak truth to power. Daniel Immerwahr On page 26, the associate professor of history at Northwestern University, Illinois explores the United States’ now largely forgotten imperial ambitions, which resulted in a scattering of overseas territories. “Some four million people live in them,” he says, “four million people who can’t vote in presidential elections.” Tiffany Jenkins Arguments rage about the ‘return’ of museum treasures such as the Elgin Marbles – but do such artefacts really belong to any particular time and…

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the caliph’s dream

Looking around the Arab world today, one might well despair about its political future. With few exceptions, it’s ruled by ruthless men – autocrats who brook no dissent. It seems that they alone can keep things together, and only by brute force. In the autocrats’ world, there is no debate. Free speech is punished with what has been called, since pre-Islamic times, ‘the cutting of the tongue’. Historically, the cutting was usually metaphorical; today it can be more literal, and far more drastic – think bonesaws. Political language seems to support the autocrats. Look in an English–Arabic dictionary and you’ll find ‘politics’ translated as siyasah. Find siyasah in an Arabic dictionary, though, and the first meaning given is “the breaking in of horses, camels” – as if politics begins with the use…

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the historical is political

Historian and author Rutger Bregman made headlines earlier this year when a speech he gave at a World Economic Forum meeting went viral. He spoke to Matt Elton about the experience, and why historians must speak out on current affairs Talk me through how you went from writing your book, 2017’s Utopia for Realists , to appearing at the Davos conference that gained so much media attention. Rutger Bregman: Yeah, that’s a good question, and I’ve sometimes wondered that myself! My book is about all sorts of ideas that may seem bizarre right now but may become reality in the future – just as we have a lot of ideas that are very normal right now but were completely bizarre just a couple of decades or a century or so ago. Think about…

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history headlines

1 NEW YORK CITY UNITED STATES All that glitters The Metropolitan Museum of Art has confirmed that it will return an ancient gilded coffin to Egypt, after investigations revealed that it had been looted from that country in 2011. Made in the first century BC for the high-ranking priest Nedjemankh, the coffin was acquired by the Met in 2017 for almost $4 million. A spokesperson revealed that the museum had been provided with forged provenance documents stating that the coffin was exported legitimately in 1971. 2 LONDON UNITED KINGDOM Curating controversy The director of the British Museum has caused controversy by describing the removal of the Parthenon marbles (pictured below) from Greece in the 19th century as a “creative act”. Speaking to the Greek newspaper Ta Nea, Hartwig Fischer stated that, despite requests to reopen…

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should museums return their treasures?

“The best way to respect people who came before us is to research history without judging it through the eyes of the present”Tiffany Jenkins In the early eighth century, monks at Wearmouth-Jarrow Abbey produced three enormous bibles. Two remained in Northumbria, but only fragments of one survive. The third travelled with the abbot as he set out to Rome, intending to present it as a gift to the shrine of Peter the Apostle. Known as the Codex Amiatinus, it is in astonishing condition – and is the oldest surviving complete Latin Bible in the world. This monumental text, one of the greatest works of Anglo-Saxon England, is now kept in the Laurentian Library in Florence, beyond Britain’s borders – and a good thing, too. Culture doesn’t have a fixed nationality. It’s…