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The Zamani Reader

On West Africa, Britain, and the West Indies in the Eighteenth Century

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Historiographies

Book Review of Thomas R. Martin’s Herodotus and Sima Qian: The First Great Historians of Greece and China

THOMAS R. MARTIN. Herodotus and Sima Qian: The First Great Historians of Greece and China – A Brief History with Documents. (Bedford Series in History and Culture.) Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2010. Pp. 153. $19.99. Paperback. ISBN: 9780312416492.

Herodotus and Sima Qian is a brief, comparative, and cross-cultural analysis of the lives and major works of two ancient writers whom author Thomas Martin believes to be “the first great historians” of the Eastern and Western worlds. These two writers are Herodotus of classical Greece (ca. 484 – ca. 414 BCE), known for writing the Histories around 450 BCE, and Sima Qian of early imperial China (ca. 145 – ca. 86), known for writing The Records of the Historian around 109 BCE. Herodotus was a Greek storyteller from the Persian-controlled town of Halicarnassus in southwestern Turkey. He wrote his 30-scroll Histories about the rise of the Persian Empire in the region of modern Iran, and the Greco-Persian Wars that occurred between an alliance of Greek city-states and the Archaemenid dynasty. Herodotus wrote this narrative after his family was exiled to mainland Greece. By contrast, Qian was a privileged son from Xiayang, a village near modern Hancheng in the Shaanxi province of China. He became the Grand Astrologer and then Palace Secretary to Emperor Wu from the Han dynasty of a unified China. He took over writing The Records from his dying father as a private project of filial honor. He suffered castration and disgrace as a result of his dedication to the work.[1]

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Essay on the Historiography of Unfree Labor in the English Atlantic World

In Atlantic History: A Critical Appraisal (2009) Jack Greene and Philip Morgan defined the field of Atlantic history as “an analytic construct and an explicit category of historical analysis that historians have devised to help them organize the study of some of the most important developments of the early modern era.” One of the most important historical developments historians have explored through the analytical construct of Atlantic History is the evolution of English and British overseas empire and its relationship to the the rise of capitalism and unfree labor in the early-modern era. These developments were largely ignored during the first four decades of the field’s history, but they stand at the forefront of the discipline in the twenty-first century, as David Armitage declares that “we are all Atlanticists now.”

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