31 January 2018

Past and Present - 02/2018 (last updated Feb. 1)

You may not like it but this is what peak best-girl looks like.
Like with my scanlation activity, Past and Present was shoved way back into my list of priorities, but here I go again. To be honest, at the moment, I'm reading more academic papers than I am following current events so don't expect me to comment on a lot of the big news stories.

Once again, just a warning about possible uneducated/unqualified opinions. Don't take me as some super trustworthy commentator, because I'm not.

Cotton, slavery, and the new history of capitalism: Oh man, this fucking paper. Absolutely brutal put-down of three pivotal works dealing with slavery's role in the "New History of Capitalism." The three works that this paper criticizes are Beckert's Empire of Cotton, Johnson's River of Dark Dreams, and Baptist's The Half Has Never Been Told. I've yet to read these books, but I heard about them back in 2016 within the context of the discourse on contribution of blacks to American history or world history at large. Of course, the more extreme fringe of this discourse devolves into shit like "WE WUZ KANGZ" but I've more frequently started to hear among more sane people how slavery was essential to the transition to capitalism and modern economic growth. Either one of these three books are usually cited in such assertions. Now when it comes to academics trashing their own kind, there are cases when it's clear they're being way too nit-picky, but this paper is nothing of that sort. I mean, just, [Owen Wilson]WOW[/Owen Wilson]. How the fuck can a Harvard University history professor like Sven Beckert go around MAKING UP QUOTES and not only keep his job, but receive awards? Srsly smh tbh famalamadingdong.
Global trends in numeracy 1820-1949 and its implications for long-term growth:
In addition to the general academic literature on IQ, the use of literacy and numeracy rates to measure human capital is something I wish that more non-economic historians would become aware of, even if they disagree with its conclusions. More people are probably familiar with literacy so here's an informative paper on numeracy as measured with the concept of age-heaping. I remember when I read some papers about the industrialization of 20th century Turkey, Egypt, and Iran, I was quite shocked by how low the literacy rates were even in the mid-20th century compared to East Asia. As such, I'm not surprised at all by the data for the regions as shown in the image above, though I am surprised by how fucking high the Whipple index is for South Asia. I really need to get reading more on South Asia one of these days...

P.S. Here's a useful paper on numeracy focusing on early modern East Asia.
Causes and Consequences of the Protestant Reformation: This is a paper I read for fun last year for the big 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation. Yeah, I know I'm a fucking nerd for doing that, especially since I'm neither European nor Christian. In any case, this will be a fun eye-opening paper who've only learned about the Reformation in the typical way taught in most 100/200-level European/World history classes. It's one of the reasons I'm quite enamoured by economic history. I may not be qualified to pass judgment on it, but it all feels quite fresh to me.


Rational Basis for Turkey's Move into Syria: So yeah, obviously the Turkish military offensive into Afrin, Syria is the big news people should be aware of right now and what a mess it is. This particular article touches upon how it makes "rational" sense when considering how Turks view the Kurdish question and their internal security, but seems to completely miss (maybe deliberately?) how the offensive can be "rational" politically to pander to Turkish nationalists who support Erdogan and dream of a Greater Turkey. As Turkish papers Hurriyet and Sozcu reported respectively, "Our jets hit Afrin. Turkey's heart beats as one," and "We said we would strike despite the US and Russia. We struck the traitors." In any case, short of Turkey conducting another Armenian Genocide on the Kurds, I'm not really convinced that this Afrin offensive makes much long-term military/security sense.

One big question is the extent to which both US and Russia will allow the offensive to escalate to. As the YPG has pointed out, it seems Russia has allowed Turkey to enter Syrian airspace, but there seems to be some line that Russia wants Turkey to toe, as indicated by the recent Russian bombing just ahead of a Turkish military convoy in Idlib. Definitely something to keep a close eye on.

As a side note, this little article about Germany expressing "humanitarian" concerns over Turkey actully using the tanks that Germany sold is as funny as it is depressing.


  1. Wew, that NHC paper was fucking great. How do you come across these papers?

    1. I come across a lot of the papers from browsing through academics who're active on twitter. Others, I browse on my own by either googling for publications of authors I like or going through some of the bibliography sections of books/papers I like.

      Just to throw out some names: Jared Rubin, Peter Turchin, Pseudoerasmus, Anton Howes, Mark Koyama.

      One academic I've recently taken a liking to is Debin Ma, an econ historian at LSE (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w4foYYX5124) but I don't think he uses twitter. You should check his publications out if you get the chance. I'm sort of thinking at the moment how I can write up a post involving the stuff he covers.

      You know... After writing up this reply, this is all eerily reminding me of how I developed my interest in manga by using the database at mangaupdates and going through different mangaka and their works.

  2. What is peak best girl's name?

    1. Watch Sora yori mo tooi basho and find out.

  3. Perhaps Sven's been hanging out with Michael Bellesiles recently.

  4. amazing i really like how you translate your work it inspire me to read manga and looking forward for your work keep it up and thank you

  5. I can't open the link of the paper.

  6. For your amusement, in case you want to do a year-end Past and Present:

    1. Thanks for the link. I don't plan to do one because I ended up focusing on my readings more than keeping up with news but I can't say that I'm surprised.

      I think I might do a post on stuff I've read this year instead though.