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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

Portuguese actor Diogio Morgado plays Jesus in the History Channel’s The Bible mini-series. Photo courtesy Lightworkers Media / Hearst Productions Inc

Essay/
Demography and migration
The white man Jesus

There’s a reason why the Bible is silent about the colour of Jesus’ skin. So why has this become an issue for our age?

Edward J Blum

Dam Square with the New Town Hall under Construction (1656) by Johannes Lingelbach. Photo courtesy The Amsterdam Museum/Wikipedia

Essay/
Global history
How Europe became so rich

In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?

Joel Mokyr

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

Prince Aurangzeb, 1653-1655, gouache with gold on paper. Image © Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

Essay/
Global history
A much-maligned Mughal

The great king Aurangzeb is among the most hated men in Indian history. A historian claims he’s been unjustly demonised

Audrey Truschke

Detail of ‘Siege of the City’ by Jean Charlot, watercolour of a fresco at Chichén Itzá. The Maya mural from the Las Monjas building clearly shows a ship with the distinct wooden planks of a Viking boat © Jean Charlot/Artists Rights Society [ARS]; Copyright Agency, 2020

Essay/
Global history
Vikings in America

Centuries before Columbus, Vikings came to the Western hemisphere. How far into the Americas did they travel?

Valerie Hansen

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

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

Storm clouds gather above ships waiting to dock in Singapore. Photo by Edgar Su/Reuters

Essay/
Global history
What is global history now?

Historians cheered globalism with work about cosmopolitans and border-crossing, but the power of place never went away

Jeremy Adelman

The Haitian Revolutionary leader Toussaint L’Ouverture painted on the body of a bus operating in Port-au-Prince, July 2008. Photo by Jan Sochor/Latincontent/Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
Atlantic freedoms

Haiti, not the US or France, was where the assertion of human rights reached its defining climax in the Age of Revolution

Laurent Dubois

The Hartgers View, the earliest known view of the Dutch colony of New Amsterdam, on Manhattan, as it appeared c1627. Photo by Getty Images

Essay/
Global history
Guns, empires and Indians

Multilateral imperial politics triggered an indigenous arms race and led to the violent transformation of Native America

David J Silverman

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

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

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

Hans Baluschek’s Großstadtlichter (1931), oil on canvas. Stadtmuseum, Berlin. Photo of painting courtesy of Michael Setzpfandt

Essay/
Cities
A metropolitan world

Urbanisation might be the most profound change to human society in a century, more telling than colour, class or continent

Michael Goebel

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

Vehicles on the Streets of Tokyo (1870) by Utagawa Yoshitori. Courtesy the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Essay/
Nations and empires
The myth of Westernisation

Americans liked to believe that Japan was Westernising through the 20th century but Japan was vigorously doing the opposite

Jon Davidann

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

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

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

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

Tipu Sultan, son of Haider Ali, on an elephant in a detail from ‘The Battle of Pollilur’, 1780, a mural at Daria Daulat Palace, Seringapatam. Photo by Bridgeman Iages

Essay/
Global history
Revolutionary heroes

If the sultan of Mysore had had a bit more luck, George Washington might be known as the Haider Ali of North America

Blake Smith

Mahatma Gandhi visits the Greenfield Mill at Darwen during his tour of the cotton areas of Lancashire, England, in 1931. Photo by George Rinhart/Corbis via Getty Images

Essay/
History
History from below

What shaped the thought of E P Thompson, the great historian of ordinary working people and champion of their significance?

Priya Satia

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