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Welcome to the Toynbee Prize Foundation

The Foundation seeks to promote scholarly engagement with global history through several activities. Foremost among these is the Toynbee Prize, an award granted every other year to recognize outstanding work in global history. As an affiliated society of the American Historical Association, the Foundation sponsors one session at the Association’s annual meeting. In the years in which the Prize is awarded, the recipient presents a lecture. In alternate years, the Foundation sponsors a session on global history.

Apply now to become an Editor-at-Large

We welcome applications for the position of Editors-at-Large from graduate students and advanced undergraduates. The Toynbee Prize Foundation’s Global History Blog features a mix of long-form interviews with global historians, historiographical pieces, and short-form material of interest to our readers: job posts, cross-postings from other blogs, and recently published articles. Editors-at-Large will gain exposure to one…

A Muslim Cosmopolis, Or, the Individual and the Nation in Global History: An Interview with Seema Alavi

Dr. Seema Alavi

People tend to assume the origins of contemporary events, alliances and disagreements belong to the recent if not the immediate past. Recent news articles highlight with surprise the Arabicization of Islamic practice in South Asia – most prominently with respect to the murder of several bloggers in Bangladesh. But India has a long history of intellectual contact with the Arab world. The Madrasa Saulatia in Mecca was set up by an Indian Muslim Rahmatullah Kairanwi – a key protagonist in Seema Alavi’s book Muslim Cosmopolitanism in the Age of Empire (2015) – as a “centre for embracive reformist Islam with a strong Indic tradition.” It remains a major scholarly hub, retaining intellectual contact with Sunni Muslim seminaries all over the world. It’s own orientation now can be described as a purist intellectual tradition of Islam. For example, it receives patronage “from the Abd-al Wahab impacted Saudi ruling house,” even as – Alavi is quick to remind us of this – its scholarly tradition stands in stark contrast to the violence that is often perpetrated in the name of Wahabi Islam. In this respect, Alavi’s book Muslim Cosmopolitanism is a fundamentally revisionist text that works through the category of the individual and of the nation. She draws out the history of how a modern vision of Islamic universal selfhood was articulated in the mid-nineteenth century: the processes that connected Indic reformist strands in Islam with Hamidian notions of modernity centred on jurisprudence. In her account, cities such as Cairo thus appear as more than just a site that elucidated anti-British nationalism. Importantly, the book foregrounds how modern histories of South Asia limit key protagonists in this larger global story to the territorial bounds of modern India, even as the records of imperial Britain show how they negotiated trans-imperial identities across South Asia and the Ottoman empire.…

CFP: Bids for Autonomy in the Condition of Globality (Columbia University, 13-14 April 2018)

In the nineteenth century, globalization acquired a new intensity which has persisted until this day. As the world became more integrated and interconnected, successive attempts were made by states, peoples, social movements, religions, classes, corporations and regions to assert their autonomy against real and prospective forms of domination, discipline and uniformity imposed by exterior forces and…

CFP: Contested Borders? Practising Empire, Nation and Region in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries (London, 26-28 April 2018)

For scholars interested in the historical practice of belonging in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, please see the following call for papers. Abstracts are due by 16 October 2017:   Conference at the German Historical Institute London, 26–28 April 2018 Brexit, the Basque country, Kashmir – the drawing of social and spatial boundaries, the question…

Call for Contributions: Global South Studies

Global South Studies, a digital platform sponsored by the Global South journal, is soliciting contributions. See Dr. Anne Garland Mahler’s introduction to the Global South heuristic here (and excerpted below): The Global South as a critical concept has three primary definitions. First, it has traditionally been used within intergovernmental development organizations –– primarily those that originated…

CFP: The Munich Crisis and the People: International, Transnational and Comparative Perspectives (Sheffield, 29-30 June 2018)

The Munich Crisis and the People: International, Transnational and Comparative Perspectives Humanities Research Institute (HRI), University of Sheffield, 29-30 June 2018 Recent events in international politics have highlighted the intricate interconnectedness between diplomatic crises and public opinion, notably public expressions of emotion. As the 80th anniversary of the Munich Crisis approaches, this conference will revisit…

CFP: Amidst Empires: Colonialism, China and the Chinese (Adelaide, Australia, 29-30 January, 2018)

For readers interested in the history of China’s place in the world, see this call for papers for a conference to be held at Flinders University from 29-30 January, 2018. 200-word abstracts are due by 1 November 2017: Amidst Empires: Colonialism, China and the Chinese, 1839-1997 Flinders University, Adelaide 29 & 30 January, 2018. Like other…

Fifth European Congress in World and Global History opens today in Budapest

The fifth European Congress in World and Global History opens today in Budapest. Organised by the European Network in Universal and Global History, the Central European University and Corvinus University and hosted together with the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Hungarian Historical Association, the event brings together some 650 scholars, students, and professionals working on…

Acts of Faith: Talking Religion, Law, and Empire with Dr. Anna Su

Religious freedom is back in the news. Just last week, the State Department released its report on religious freedom for 2017. Speaking at its unveiling, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson pledged solidarity with a diverse group of persecuted religious groups: Iranian Baha’is and Christians, Chinese Uighur Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists, Pakistani Ahmadiyya Muslims, Saudi Arabian Shia Muslims, and Turkish non-Sunni Muslims, among others. Government officials did not miss the opportunity to extol the US’s “long, strong tradition”  of promoting religious freedom abroad.

No sooner than these announcements were made, reporters began pointing out the gap between rhetoric and reality. In a series of blistering questions, journalists underscored inconsistencies in the administration’s stated prioritization of persecuted Christian refugees; the restrictions on travelers from several majority-Muslim countries; the politicization and selectivity of its interventions; and the absence of any self-reflexivity, particularly in relation to spikes in hate crimes directed at American Muslims. China promptly followed suit, questioning America’s moral authority on religious freedom amid white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville.

The history of America’s interest in religious freedom abroad is the focus of Dr. Anna Su’s first book, Exporting Freedom: Religious Liberty and American Power (2016). As Su shows, the US has a long history of intervening in countries on behalf of religious freedom. Su tracks the development of official government policies toward religious freedom: first as part of its “civilizing mission” in the Philippines from 1898, then in the democratization of Japan after World War II, and finally through the championing of human rights in Iraq and elsewhere. Working at the intersection of history and law, Su is currently Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Faculty of Law. She previously earned an SJD from Harvard Law School, and worked as a law clerk for the Philippine Supreme Court and a consultant to the Philippine government negotiating panel with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Su presented at the Harvard International & Global History Seminar earlier this year. While she was in town, the Foundation caught up with Su to discuss the shifting valences of religious freedom and American empire, as well as the benefits and dangers of watching historical films starring Tommy Lee Jones.

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