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BBC World Histories MagazineBBC World Histories Magazine

BBC World Histories Magazine Issue 9

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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6 Issues


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Human survival has always relied on natural resources. Our lives, increasingly played out on the screens of phones and tablets, may seem more and more divorced from the natural world, yet the land’s resources remain crucial. Indeed, that technological shift isn’t without its physical impact: the batteries that power smartphones are made with cobalt, a scarce metal found in some of the world’s poorest nations, where it’s often mined by young children in dangerous conditions. Global politics are being shaped – for better and worse – by the materials of the physical world. This is nothing new, of course: resources and commodities have been coveted, treasured, traded and fought over for centuries. This issue, experts in key fields explore how substances such as oil, gold, water and coffee have shaped human history.…

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Emma Dabiri In our Conversation feature starting on page 72, historian and presenter Dabiri talks to Tom Young about his new book on the ways in which the west’s relationship with Africa shaped the continent’s past. “It seems that, since the imposition of European models, the continent is becoming increasingly unequal,” she argues. Theresa Grieben Berlin-based illustrator Theresa creates maps for the historical journeys explored in our Footsteps articles – this issue, Pliny the Younger’s odyssey, on page 84. “His words stuck with me: ‘Since we are denied a long life, let us leave something to bear witness that at least we have lived’. I guess every artist can identify with that,” she says. Graciela Iglesias-Rogers What impacts did the Age of Exploration have on the discoverers – and the lands they discovered? On page…

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putin’s victory cult

Vladimir Putin’s main task when he took over from Boris Yeltsin in 2000 was to imbue a nation still traumatised from the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union with a new sense of meaning and purpose. “Most of the population didn’t recognise the Russian Federation as a real thing,” Gleb Pavlovsky, a spin doctor who worked for both Yeltsin and Putin, said. “They felt as if they lived in some kind of strange offshoot of the Soviet Union. We had to ensure the handover, but we also had to create some sense of nation.” Leaders of all stripes have looked to historical events to rally together nations, but Russia’s past century was bloody and divisive. There was, however, one event that had the narrative potential to unite the country and serve…

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criminal history

In February, the Polish president Andrzej Duda signed an immensely controversial new law that makes it illegal to refer to Nazi extermination centres in Poland as ‘Polish death camps’, or to blame the ‘Polish nation’ for the crimes of the Holocaust. Other nations have been queuing up to criticise the Poles. Rex Tillerson, US secretary of state, declared that the new legislation “adversely affects freedom of speech and academic inquiry”. Yet I have an element of sympathy with some of the motives behind this draconian new statute. The fact is that the role of the Poles during the Holocaust has often been cruelly misrepresented. Imagine, for instance, how Poles felt in 2012 when US President Barack Obama casually referred to “Polish death camps”. There were, of course, no ‘Polish death camps’;…

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cultural dementia

Former coalminers’ leader Arthur Scargill proclaimed, in March 2017, that the Brexit vote to leave the European Union was a chance to “reopen the cotton mills [and] steel plants”. Declaring that, before Britain joined the EEC, up to 80% of its economy had been manufacturing, he invoked Mahatma Gandhi in a call for “homespun industries”, and denounced “free movement of labour” for causing economic and social malaise. Scargill’s comments, along with other contributions to the Brexit debate, cite a past that has no relationship to coherent history. He did not wonder why the UK is no longer the workshop of the world. His imagined past – in which certain desirable things were possible – has displaced a reasoned understanding of why they no longer are. But then you might ask: what is…

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what marx means today

This May marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Karl Marx. The face of the founder of a political philosophy that, at least in name, became the ruling ideology of a third of the world’s population remains as recognisable today as ever. But the stern Soviet-era statues are no more, destroyed or transformed into monuments of communist kitsch. Recent biographies, films and plays about Marx’s life place him in a 19th-century context and stress his relevance to 21st-century concerns, glossing over his influence on the 20th century. Yet it’s possible to both acknowledge the complex, often tragic past of 20thcentury Marxism and assert that Marx’s work still has relevance for us today. Marx died in 1883, but Marxism as we know it is largely a product of the following century.…