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This issue, as perhaps befits a global history magazine, has been produced on two continents: from our offices in the UK and from the Jaipur Literature Festival in India. This extraordinary event, held in the Rajasthani city each January, is awash with noise, colour and crowds. Many thousands of people gather to absorb talks and debates featuring leading experts in fields including literature, politics and history. This year we caught up with some of those speakers to ask them about the challenges that face the study of world history in 2017. You can read their thoughts on page 72.

India, of course, is a land irrevocably transformed – for better and, many would say, much worse – by its experience of a lengthy period of British imperial rule. Empires are among the most seismic forces in human history, reshaping the political, economic and social orders of countless populations across the course of centuries. Our Big Question this issue explores the varied impacts of empires through the ages, and asks: have empires ever been a force for good? Seven experts share their views from page 32.

Elsewhere, two features consider the ways in which external impressions of a nation’s history may be just as important as the events themselves. The first, starting on page 22, looks at how China fought to control its international image throughout the 20th century – and how, in so doing, embraced and then later rejected the west. The second, by Peter Cozzens, explores how a very different sort of ‘west’ – namely, the ‘wild west’ of the United States – has been repeatedly misrepresented in films, books and television shows. The real story is extraordinary, full of complex characters from both sides of the conflict between settlers and the native Americans clinging to their homelands. You can read that from page 48.

This idea of different, sometimes opposing global views on historical events is central to BBC World Histories; in fact, it’s right there on the cover of each issue, under the magazine’s name. But how should historians respond when this idea is taken further still – when made-up versions of historical events are propagated? Adam IP Smith offers a guide to dealing with the much-discussed ’fake news’ phenomenon in our Viewpoints section on page 16.

Finally, don’t forget that you can enjoy extended versions of some of this issue’s features online. Head to to, among other things, read more responses to our Big Question and listen to the full audio of Christopher de Bellaigue and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s fascinating conversation about the Islamic Enlightenment (on page 84). That will hopefully keep you busy and thinking until we return with the next issue on 24 May.

Enjoy the magazine. Ma￿ Elton Editor, BBC World Histories



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