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Detail from a manuscript painting from a set of annals written in Nahuatl called the Historia Tolteca-Chichimeca (1545-1565) from Mexico. Courtesy the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

Essay/
Global history
How Aztecs told history

For the warriors and wanderers who became the Aztec people, truth was not singular and history was braided from many voices

Camilla Townsend

An unknown male mummy found along with the mother and wife of Tutankhamun. Photo by Kenneth Garrett/National Geographic

Essay/
Archaeology
Mummies among us

Before death became a source of disgust and denial, Europeans cheerfully painted with – and ingested – human remains

Michael Press

Children playing in the remains of King Henry’s Sans-Souci Palace in Milot, Haiti, 8 September 2017. Photo by Andres Martinez Casares/Reuters

Essay/
Nations and empires
The king of Haiti’s dream

How a utopian vision of Black freedom and self-government was undone in a world still in thrall to slavery and racism

Marlene L Daut

An Indian worker shows a European man a sample of opium taken from one of the large clay pots in the foreground. Photo by Bourne and Shepherd/British Library

Essay/
Global history
From vice to crime

European empires were addicted to opium smoking. Then their own agents launched a moral crusade to prohibit it

Diana S Kim

An Ashokan pillar at Vaishali, India. Photo by Rajeez Kumar/Wikipedia

Essay/
The ancient world
Ashoka’s moral empire

Being good is hard. How an ancient Indian emperor, horrified by the cruelty of war, created an infrastructure of goodness

Sonam Kachru

A view of Singapore’s central business district from a hotel along Beach Road. Much of Singapore’s recent development has been built upon land reclaimed from the sea. Photo by Sim Chi Yin/Magnum Photos

Essay/
Politics and government
The ungoverned globe

The end of the liberal order would unleash chaos; its continuance means unconstrained economic suffering. What to do?

Benjamin Studebaker

The Death of General Wolfe (1770) by Benjamin West. Wolfe was killed during the Battle of Quebec (1759) that decided the fate of French lands in North America. Courtesy the National Gallery of Canada/Wikipedia

Essay/
History
Are there laws of history?

Historians believe that the past is irreducibly complex and the future wildly unpredictable. Scientists disagree. Who’s right?

Amanda Rees

Portrait of an African Man ( c1525-30), by Jan Jansz Mostaert. This is the only known portrait of a black man in early European painting. He is thought to be Christophle le More, an archer who was a member of Emperor Charles V’s bodyguard. Photo courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Is ‘race’ modern?

To counter racism, scholars must trace the idea of ‘race’ to its origins, but asking the right questions is half the battle

Adam Hochman

Erotic scene from the Persian Safavid period c1660. Photo courtesy the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Essay/
Sex and sexuality
Islamic sexology

Popular stereotypes of Islam as a prudish religion ignore rich traditions of freewheeling, explicit erotica and advice

Mark Hay

Detail from Hannah Duston Killing the Indians (1847) by Junius Brutus Stearns. Courtesy Colby College Museum of Art; Gift of R Chase Lasbury and Sally Nan Lasbury

Essay/
War and peace
American torture

For 400 years, Americans have argued that their violence is justified while the violence of others constitutes barbarism

William Fitzhugh Brundage

Jewish bankers from the Canticles of Holy Mary. Codice of El Escorial. Written in Galician-Portuguese. Reign of Alfonso X. 13th century. Courtesy the Museum of the Americas, Madrid/Wikimedia

Essay/
Global history
The rumour about the Jews

Antisemitism flourished in response to the unsettling, abstract growth of finance capitalism in the early modern world

Francesca Trivellato

The execution of Robespierre and his accomplices, 17 July 1794 (10 Thermidor Year II). Robespierre is depicted holding a handkerchief and dressed in a brown jacket in the cart immediately to the left of the scaffold. Photo courtesy the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris

Essay/
Global history
Vive la révolution!

Must radical political change generate uncontainable violence? The French Revolution is both a cautionary and inspiring tale

Jeremy Popkin

Plaque depicting warrior and attendants (16th-17th century), Edo peoples, Benin kingdom, Nigeria. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
Global history
Africa, in its fullness

The West focuses only on slavery, but the history of Africa is so much more than a footnote to European imperialism

Toby Green

The Miracles of Saint Francis Xavier (1619-22) by André Reinoso. Saint Francis Xavier was a missionary and co-founder of the Jesuit order. Courtesy Museu de São Roque, Lisbon/AKG

Essay/
Nations and empires
Architects of empire

Jesuits knew the miserable truth of European empire in India and Brazil, yet their writings rendered it grandiose and sacred

Ananya Chakravarti

Fisherman at Saint Jean d’Acre in then Ottoman Syria, now Israel. Photo taken in 1891 by André Salles. Courtesy Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris

Essay/
Nations and empires
Cosmopolitan Ottomans

European colonisation put an abrupt end to political experiments towards a more equal, diverse and ecumenical Arab world

Ussama Makdisi

Members of the American Indian Movement and the Oglala Sioux in a stand-off with FBI agents, National Guard soldiers, and federal marshals at Wounded Knee in March 1973. Photo by Bettmann/Getty

Essay/
Nations and empires
The Lakota never left

Facing annihilation, the Lakota instead remade themselves – and took a lead role among the world’s indigenous peoples

Pekka Hämäläinen

Berber women photographed in January 1932. Photo by Marcelin Flandrin/National Geographic

Essay/
Race and ethnicity
Race on the mind

When Europeans colonised North Africa, they imposed their preoccupation with race onto its diverse peoples and deep past

Ramzi Rouighi

Coloured lanterns featuring Peppa Pig characters at Fo Guang Shan during a dharma assembly on the Chinese New Year, 5 February 2019, in Kaohsiung, China. Photo by Chen Xiaoyuan/China News Service/Getty

Essay/
Global history
Re-made in China

From Marxism to hip hop, China’s appropriations from the West show that globalisation makes the world bumpy, not flat

Amy Hawkins & Jeffrey Wasserstrom

The Hongs at Canton (c1820), unknown artist. Chinese school. Photo by AKG London

Essay/
Nations and empires
Scots running amok

As loan sharks, drug smugglers, generals and plant hunters, Scots played a central role in expanding the British Empire

Jessica Hanser

Detail from Nagasaki Harbour (c1833-6), by Kawahara Keiga. Ink and colour on silk. On the left is the crescent-shaped island of Deshima (flying the national flag), from which the Dutch were the only Westerners to trade with Japan from 1641 to 1859. Courtesy the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Essay/
Nations and empires
Asia had the upper hand

For centuries, Europeans in Asia were guests, trading partners and subordinates. Only much later did Empire seem imaginable

Chris Nierstrasz

European tourists having a picnic in a temple in Egypt, 1898. Photo by LL/Roger Viollet/Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
Who really owns the past?

Cultural heritage is an ideal imposed from above. It’s time to listen to what communities value about their own histories

Michael Press

Omar ibn Said c1850. Digitally colourised. Omar ibn Said’s autobiography is the only known extant autobiography of a slave written in Arabic in America. It was not edited by his owner, as those of other slaves written in English were, and is therefore surmised to be more authentic. It also attests to the high level of education that existed in Africa at the time and also reveals that many Africans who were brought to the United States as slaves were followers of Islam. Public domain via the Beinecke Library/Yale University

Essay/
History
Muslims of early America

Muslims came to America more than a century before Protestants, and in great numbers. How was their history forgotten?

Sam Haselby