World History


Volatile Hydrocarbons, Volatile Politics: The Historical Context of Venezuela’s Economic and Social Crisis

Bandera_de_Venezuela_en_el_Waraira_Repano 2.jpgVenezuela wasn't always burning out of control. Even before the rise of Hugo Chavez nearly twenty years ago and the tangible abundance brought about through his social welfare initiatives, Venezuela had a reasonable claim as a model of economic success in Latin America. Further, it was blessed with an abundance of a key natural resource, petroleum, as can be seen below in maps found in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

Detail from Map 24. Hydrocarbon mineral products (petroleum, natural gas, etc.). [Resources and the Caribbean region. January 1, 1905]

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Special map showing producing [oil] fields, Venezuela, 1930.

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Volatile Hydrocarbons, Volatile Politics: The Historical Context of Venezuela’s Economic and Social Crisis

The United States Enters World War I: 28 Newspaper Front Pages from 100 Years Ago Today

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On April 6, 1917, the United States Congress declared war on the German Empire. Although public opinion had been mixed, on April 2, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson stood before a special joint session to make the case that “armed neutrality…is impracticable.” “The wrongs against which we now array ourselves,” he said, “are no common wrongs; they cut to the very roots of human life.” The Senate passed Wilson’s war resolution 82 to 6; the House voted 373 to 50.

The following front pages—representing more than 20 states and 25 cities—capture the momentous American decision to join the Allies in a “war to end all wars.” Each was published a century ago today and can be found in Early American Newspapers, Series 1 to 13, 1690-1922.

From Alaska

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From Arizona

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From California

The United States Enters World War I: 28 Newspaper Front Pages from 100 Years Ago Today

Social Issues, Socialist Countries: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

The propaganda from socialist countries during the Cold War would have the reader believe in fairy tale endings. Revolutions were necessarily unpleasant, but the outcome of full employment, efficient central planning, and a reaffirmation of the dignity of man was held to be worth all the drama. Stalinist purges and peasant starvation were presented as aberrations on the path to an economy and social order that was neither too hot nor too cold, but just right.

However, the reality on the ground often differed from the official narrative. How was the quality of life for the mentally ill? For racial minorities? For religious persons? In this month’s highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995, we'll consider the social challenges that persisted in socialist countries.


On the Composition and Disposition of Patients in USSR Psychiatric Institutions

Zhurnal Nevropatologii i Psikhiatrii imeni S.S. Korsakova (Journal of Neuropathology and Psychiatry imeni S.S. Korsakov) Moscow, Vol. 57 No. 1, 1957.

This report relates the status of nearly 100,000 psychiatric patients across 193 institutions in the Soviet Union. Character of debility, morbidity, demographics, and general forms of treatment are given.


Moslems in the Soviet Union and in China

The Country of Iman al-Bukhari: Its Past and Present

[pamphlet] Tehran, 1960.

Social Issues, Socialist Countries: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Signing Jackie Robinson, Malpractice in South Africa, An American Bohemian: The Readex Report (March 2017)

In this issue: the seminal inking of an African American baseball legend, Apartheid-era doctors under fire for neglect, and the unexplained loss of a literary luminary.


The Robinson Interregnum: The Black Press Responds to the Signing of Jackie Robinson, October 23, 1945-March 1, 1946

Thomas Aiello, Associate Professor of History, Valdosta State University

jackie 2.jpgThere is little about the life of Jackie Robinson that historians do not know. Each part of his saga has been analyzed time and again. Among the periods sometimes given short shrift, however, is the time between the seminal event of his signing with the Montreal Royals, AAA farm team of Branch Rickey’s Brooklyn Dodgers, in October 1945 and his arrival in Sanford, Florida, for his first spring training in an unapologetically racist South….Each of those accounts uses major black weeklies to create a picture of Robinson’s actions and the black response, but looking at smaller black weeklies, less trumpeted than the Pittsburgh Courier and Chicago Defender, a more nuanced picture of that response helps color the solid scholarship that already exists. > Full Story

Signing Jackie Robinson, Malpractice in South Africa, An American Bohemian: The Readex Report (March 2017)

‘The Pitiful Plight of the Persecuted Minorities’: Exploring 20th-Century Immigration Policy in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

On September 21, 1945, Frantisek Jiri Pavlik illegally entered the United States at Boston, Massachusetts, as a stowaway and was immediately taken into custody by order of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. On November 29, 1945, the chairman of the House Committee on Immigration and Naturalization, Michigan Representative John Lesinski, Sr., submitted a bill to Congress in which he tells the 25-year-old Czechoslovakian’s story:

He had applied to the United States consul in Prague for a visa to come to the United States but was unsuccessful because the Germans would not permit anyone to leave the country. In May 1939…he smuggled his way into Germany and proceeded to Hamburg in a further attempt to come to the United States. He was again unsuccessful in his efforts and returned to Prague. In 1940, through the means of a prohibited radio, he learned that a Czechoslovak legion was forming in north Africa and again left his home. He was apprehended by the Gestapo and sentenced to be hanged. He was sent to the concentration camp at Dachau and was held there as a political prisoner. He remained there from March 1941 to July 1944, at which time he was transferred to another camp in Germany, and in January 1945 managed to make his escape. He worked himself through the German lines to the American side and contacted American Infantry troops. He was placed under investigation and questioned thoroughly by the United States Army and states he furnished valuable information to them….He fought with the American troops for about 1 month and subsequently was hospitalized, having been wounded twice.

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‘The Pitiful Plight of the Persecuted Minorities’: Exploring 20th-Century Immigration Policy in the U.S. Congressional Serial Set

Secular and Religious Contradictions during the 'Age of Anxiety' as Found in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Age of Anxiety.jpgIn 1947, the poet W.H. Auden published a book-length poem entitled “The Age of Anxiety,” which later inspired a symphony by Leonard Bernstein and a ballet by Jerome Robbins. It includes these lines spoken by Rosetta, the Jewish protagonist: “Lies and lethargies police the world/ In its periods of peace.”

This couplet could be a fitting characterization of the Cold War, a time when each superpower tried to bluff and coerce the other into accepting its socioeconomic hegemony and credo—all the while loudly proclaiming its benevolent, apolitical intentions. Were we at war? Not quite. At peace, then? No, something in between.

Whether framed as detente, containment, peaceful coexistence or mutually-assured destruction, the governing ideologies of the Cold War carried the spiritual weight of established religions, sometimes exerted against religious practice itself, or set in opposition to the breathless consumerism attendant upon late-stage capitalism, even as a foil to  communism's categorical insistence upon no religion at all.

The reports that follow—all found in Joint Publications Research Service Reports, 1957-1995—span that range. We have communist critiques of mainstream Christianity and mysticism, Islamic pushback against communism in Indonesia, and two secular examples of intractable bourgeois tendencies in the Soviet Union and in America.


What is the Harm of Baptism?

Agitator (Agitator), Moscow, No. 20, November 1960 

Secular and Religious Contradictions during the 'Age of Anxiety' as Found in Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

‘Wild Men of the Woods’: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

The January release of African History and Culture, 1540-1921: Imprints from the Library Company of Philadelphia includes three nineteenth-century tales of African exploration and discovery told by an Englishman, a French-American, and an American.


The Narrative of an Explorer in Tropical South Africa (1853)

By Francis Galton, Esq.

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Sir Francis Galton (1822-1911) was an English polymath whose areas of knowledge included statistics, sociology and psychology, and anthropology and eugenics. Galton’s curriculum vitae also includes tropical explorer, geographer, inventor, and meteorologist. Among his many “firsts: were creating the statistical concept of correlation, coining the phrase “nature versus nurture,” devising a fingerprint classification method, and mapping the previous day’s weather. His wide array of interests ranged from researching the power of prayer (he concluded it had none) to discovering the optimal manner of making tea.

However, Galton was limited in his beliefs toward the peoples of Africa. In describing the Damara, his prejudices are difficult to overlook:

‘Wild Men of the Woods’: Highlights from African History and Culture, 1540-1921

‘Paper Tigers’ and the Hair of the Dog that Bit You: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

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In this month's release of newly digitized JPRS Reports, we have sympathetic American and Yiddish-language commentaries on Chinese communism—including a first-hand account of the origin of the term “paper tiger.” We have a pointedly anti-communist pamphlet penned by Russian émigrés. And we have an extensive exploration of the often-discounted problem of alcoholism in the Soviet Union, with one report discussing specifically the phenomenon of curing a hangover by having yet another drink.


A Great Truth of the Present Era

Shih-chieh Chih-shih (World Knowledge), Peiping, No. 22, 22 November 1960. 18 pages

American journalist, author and progressive activist Anna Louise Strong certainly lived up to her surname. Born in Nebraska in 1885 and educated at Bryn Mawr, Oberlin and the University of Chicago, Strong travelled the world, met many world leaders of the day, and wrote a number of books. Here we have her interviewing and dining with Mao Zedong at his home in Yenan in the summer of 1946. During the course of their conversation Mao used the term “paper tiger” to describe the impermanent nature of imperialism:

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This fascinating report is but one chapter in the legacy of this remarkable woman.

‘Paper Tigers’ and the Hair of the Dog that Bit You: Highlights from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995

Mishin Control: The Political Turbulence that Grounded the Soviet Manned Lunar Program

Lunar 9.jpgThe conspiracy theory that the United States falsified the Apollo moon landings in order to score points on the Russians is well-known. What is less well-known is that following America’s realization of President Kennedy’s vision for a human presence on the Moon, the Soviet Union officially disavowed any research or intention to effect their own manned lunar landings. This attitude may have contributed to the persistent notion that the Apollo program was a hoax since at the time there was nothing to which it could be compared, and the Soviets diminished the practicality and purpose of the Apollo program at every turn. On the American side, reconnaissance information about the Soviet effort couldn’t be released without compromising national security. So the true nature of Soviet ambitions in space were not revealed until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In two complementary reports from Joint Publications Research Service (JPRS) Reports, 1957-1995“Mishin Monograph on Failure of Soviet Manned Lunar Program”by V.P. Mishin (JPRS-USP-91-006, 11/12/1991, 21 pages), and “Development of Soviet Spacecraft for Manned Missions” by I.B. Afanasyev (JPRS-USP-92-003, 5/27/1992, 29 pages), we discover that not only were the Soviets working feverishly on a lunar landingthey were designing spacecraft for a manned orbital rendezvous with Mars. It’s no coincidence that these monographs only came to light during the “glasnost/perestroika” (openness/restructuring) period in the early 1990s.

Mishin Control: The Political Turbulence that Grounded the Soviet Manned Lunar Program

Israel in the Balance: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports on the Modern Jewish State

At the passing on 29 November 1947 of “United Nations General Assembly Resolution 181 (II), Future Government of Palestine,” which sketched the outlines of the future State of Israel, the UN was itself in its infancy and seeking a permanent home. So it was that the Partition of Palestine can be traced to the Sperry Gyroscope Plant on Long Island at 1111 Marcus Avenue, in Lake Success, New York.

 

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It seems fitting that Resolution 181’s three-axis balancing of the “Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem” has its roots in a former defense installation devoted to manufacturing instruments to serve exactly that purpose.

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Israel in the Balance: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports on the Modern Jewish State

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