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Human Rights and Wrongs

Alexander Cockburn, 9 May 1991

... charge with caution. Aziz Abu-Hamad, a Saudi consultant researching Iraqi abuses for Middle East Watch, had been unable to find any credible eye-witness or testimony to sustain the charges of baby mass murder. Amnesty’s main witness was a Red Crescent doctor on the Sabahs’ payroll. He had no way of knowing whether even the 72 babies he claimed to have ...

What happened at Ayacucho

Ronan Bennett, 10 September 1992

Shining Path: The World’s Deadliest Revolutionary Force 
by Simon Strong.
HarperCollins, 274 pp., £16.99, June 1992, 0 00 215930 9
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Shining Path of Peru 
edited by David Scott Palmer.
Hurst, 271 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 1 85065 152 3
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Peru under Fire: Human Rights since the Return of Democracy 
compiled by Americas Watch.
Yale, 169 pp., £12.95, June 1992, 0 300 05237 5
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... violators of human rights. The appalling record – worse than Sendero’s – is documented by Americas Watch in Peru under Fire. The compilers criticise the Peruvian state for its high tolerance of human rights abuse. At the beginning of the war, Belaunde imposed a state of emergency on the worst affected regions, and the area covered has been ...


Benedict Anderson, 21 January 1988

Colonial Identity in the Atlantic World, 1500-1800 
edited by Nicholas Canny and Anthony Pagden.
Princeton, 290 pp., £22, September 1987, 0 691 05372 3
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... in the 16th century, Western Europeans had begun the strange habit of naming remote places in the Americas, Africa, Asia and Oceania as ‘new’ versions of (thereby) ‘old’ toponyms in their lands of origin. Moreover, they retained the habit even when these places passed under different masters, so that Nouvelle Orléans calmly became New Orleans, and ...

Creole Zones

Benedict Anderson, 7 November 1991

The First Americans: The Spanish Monarchy, Creole Patriots, and the Liberal State, 1492-1867 
by D.A. Brading.
Cambridge, 761 pp., £55, March 1991, 9780521391306
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... granted a generation ago, is being eroded by the successes of Japan and the EEC. In the southern Americas the picture is still more melancholy. Most have been outstripped economically by Asian countries which only achieved independence from colonialism in the last half-century. Mexico City, once the ‘jewel’ of the ...

At Quai Branly

Jeremy Harding: Jacques Chirac’s museum, 4 January 2007

... clutter: for an inkling of how matters stood at the Louvre, imagine Norman Bates having to watch Marion Crane’s car being winched from the swamp beside the motel. A solution was found. It appeared to favour the rugged party over the dandies and took the form of a new commission. The building would go up on a plot of public land across the river from ...

Archaeology is Rubbish

Richard Fortey: The Last 20,000 Years, 18 December 2003

After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC 
by Steven Mithen.
Weidenfeld, 622 pp., £25, June 2003, 0 297 64318 5
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... is as important in its way as any of the more famous sites on the banks of the Euphrates. In the Americas, he explores the evidence for early human colonisation of those infinitely varied tracts of land, an occupation starting well before the famous colonisation through the Bering land bridge from Asia that heralded the age of the Clovis culture eleven ...

The Torturer’s Apprentice

E.S. Turner, 5 October 1995

The Railway Man 
by Eric Lomax.
Cape, 278 pp., £15.99, August 1995, 0 224 04187 8
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... a logistic imperative is something to be avoided at all costs, whether it involves cutting the Americas in two or building St Petersburg in a freezing swamp. It is familiar lore that on the labour-expendable rail route from Siam to Burma each sleeper represented a human life. More than twelve thousand of Lomax’s fellow prisoners of war died of disease ...

Riding the Night Winds

Ron Ridenhour, 22 June 1995

Derailed in Uncle Ho’s Victory Garden: Return to Vietnam and Cambodia 
by Tim Page.
Touchstone, 248 pp., £14.99, April 1995, 0 671 71926 2
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In the Lake of the Woods 
by Tim O’Brien.
Flamingo, 306 pp., £5.99, April 1995, 0 00 654395 2
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In Retrospect: The Tragedy and Lessons of Vietnam 
by Robert McNamara.
Random House, 432 pp., $27.50, April 1995, 0 8129 2523 8
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... the lost election offers. This difference is a source of elemental tension between the two; they watch each other warily while discussing their dreams of escape and renewal. Then Kathy goes to bed alone. On one level, O’Brien’s mystery unfolds around the question of what happens between then and late the next morning, when Wade comes to and discovers ...


Colin Burrow: Walter Ralegh, 8 March 2012

Sir Walter Ralegh in Life and Legend 
by Mark Nicholls and Penry Williams.
Continuum, 378 pp., £25, February 2012, 978 1 4411 1209 5
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The Favourite: Sir Walter Ralegh in Elizabeth I’s Court 
by Mathew Lyons.
Constable, 354 pp., £14.99, March 2011, 978 1 84529 679 7
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... much of the economy of the West Country. Further west lay more enticing prospects: colonies in the Americas, opportunities to intercept Spanish gold or restrict Spanish trade with the New World. Ralegh, as well as being a West Countryman, was related to notable sailors. By befriending (and from about 1583 employing) the notable mathematician and navigational ...

Sensitive Sauls

Nicholas Spice, 5 July 1984

Him with his foot in his mouth, and Other Stories 
by Saul Bellow.
Alison Press/Secker, 294 pp., £8.95, June 1984, 0 436 03953 2
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... Mother didn’t know me, either, which was a more complex matter than the ferns. Mother wants to watch Dallas on the television, but Shawmut entertains her instead by singing her snatches from Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. Disorientated by the present, Shawmut travels inwards and backwards and away, singing Pergolesi and thinking of ‘Siena six centuries ...

Visual Tumult

John Demos: Sensory history, 30 November 2006

Sensory Worlds in Early America 
by Peter Charles Hoffer.
Johns Hopkins, 334 pp., $25, December 2005, 9780801883927
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... that it captures ‘essential sensory truths’. Try things out on yourself, he suggests, and watch how you react. He describes, in dramatic detail, one exemplary episode from several years past: an evening stroll he took through a field near Salem, Massachusetts, where many ‘supposed bewitchings’ occurred during the famous witch-hunt of ...

Through the Trapdoor

Jeremy Harding: Walter Benjamin’s Last Day, 19 July 2007

The Narrow Foothold 
by Carina Birman.
Hearing Eye, 29 pp., £7, August 2006, 9781905082100
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... with him. He was lying half naked in his bed and had his very beautiful big golden grandfather watch with open cover on a little board near him, observing the time constantly.’ This ‘big golden grandfather watch’ was perhaps a pocket watch; and if so, surely the one he’d ...

We must burn them

Hazel V. Carby: Against the Origin Story, 26 May 2022

The 1619 Project: A New American Origin Story 
edited by Nikole Hannah-Jones.
W.H. Allen, 624 pp., £25, November 2021, 978 0 7535 5953 6
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Exterminate All the Brutes 
directed by Raoul Peck.
HBO, April 2021
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... characteristic of Western European forms of conquest and Christian missionary zeal in Africa, the Americas and Europe, and traces the beliefs, dressed up as science, that produced and attempted to justify this brutality, right of conquest and dispossession. This means moving from the Crusades to the many genocidal wars against Indigenous peoples, from ...

What’s at Stake in Venezuela?

Greg Grandin, 7 February 2019

... effective use as a diplomatic norm. 3. By the late 1820s, all of Spain’s former colonies in the Americas, apart from Cuba and Puerto Rico, had won their freedom. These new countries – among them Gran Colombia, the United Provinces, Bolivia, Peru, the Republic of Chile and the United States of Mexico – accepted the territorial integrity of the ...

Refugees from the Past

James Meek: Jameson on Chandler, 5 January 2017

Raymond Chandler: The Detections of Totality 
by Fredric Jameson.
Verso, 87 pp., £12.99, July 2016, 978 1 78478 216 0
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... on the way from youth to old age, no Rio Grande. If you were born in the America of 1926, how many Americas have you lived in? Two? Three? In such a socially and technologically dynamic society as America’s, it seems inevitable that a form of passage closely related to the immigrant experience occurs; and that some children and grandchildren of temporal ...

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