The British Eighth Army’s victory at the Second Battle of El Alamein in October-November 1942 is commonly considered one of the turning points of the Second World War—Winston Churchill called it “the end of the beginning” of the war. Historian and journalist Gershom Gorenberg, however, contends that the true turning point in the North African/Middle East campaign was the First Battle of El Alamein fought in July 1942. And the key to success in that battle was the Allied victory in what Gorenberg calls the “War of Shadows”, a war of codebreakers and spies.

Joseph Conrad (1857-1924) is perhaps the most famous example of a multicultural writer in the history of British literature. His novels have been translated, serialized, made into movies, and taught at numerous schools and universities throughout the English-speaking world and beyond. His multicultural credentials are impressive: he was born Józef Teodor Nalęcz (Ian Burnet misses this one in his recent study: it was the name of the Polish noble family to which Conrad belonged) Konrad Korzeniowski in Berdychev, Ukraine, then part of the Russian Empire and formerly a town in the Kingdom of Poland. His father Apollo was a Polish poet, translator of Shakespeare and a dedicated Polish patriot. Conrad’s first language was Polish, of course, and he learned Latin at school, but he added German, French and finally English to the list. He also knew some Russian but avoided using it for patriotic reasons. 

Anne Liu Kellor’s mother was born in Chongqing during World War II, moved around mainland China during the civil war, and fled to Hong Kong with her family in 1950 before settling in Taiwan. Kellor herself grew up in Seattle in a mixed race household. Her Chinese grandmother helped raise her, keeping her hearing and speaking Mandarin until she started replying in English as she neared her teens. Her new memoir, Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love, and Belonging, is a sort of reverse immigration story as Kellor returns to the province of her mother’s birth to feel more connected to that side of her heritage, one that was so central to her early childhood but had faded as she sought to conform more to her environment in Seattle.

At a time when the Notre Dame and the Cathedral at Pisa were yet to be constructed, Southern India, ruled by the Chola dynasty, produced great works of sacred art. The bronzes from the era are now housed—as symbols of human creativity at its best—in the museums such as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Asia Society Museum in New York.

Tianjin has always seemed to play second fiddle to the more prominent Beijing. By the same token, during the late-Qing and Republican periods, Shanghai has been held up as China’s most cosmopolitan city, attracting people from around the world. Elizabeth LaCouture, in her new book, Dwelling in the World: Family, House, and Home in Tianjin, China, 1860-1960, shows that Tianjin became more prosperous than Beijing after the Nationalist government left the north for Nanjing and that it was more of an international city than Shanghai.