Centre In Focus

With pleasure, we see that the Centre for Imperial & Global History has been made the In Focus Feature story by the University’s Research & KT (@UofE_Research).

Cross-posted from In Focus

Centre in focus

Centre for Imperial and Global History

Understanding how the modern world was shaped by its past is a goal of the University of Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History (CIGH).

Launched in late 2013, the Centre aims to show how much of the world’s history was created by empires, to reposition the histories of those empires in a wider global context, and gain insight into the causes and consequences of globalisation.

It does this through researching topics including the histories of humanitarianism and human rights, law and colonialism, regions in a global context, and the relationship between globalisation’s past and present.   Continue reading “Centre In Focus”

A Decade of ‘Imperial Absent-Mindedness’: A New Talking Empire Podcast

porter absentminded imperialistsRichard Toye

In 2004, Bernard Porter published The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society and Culture in Britain. It immediately became a controversial work. Porter later reflected that the book:

was mainly a response to certain scholars (and some others) who, I felt, had hitherto simplified and exaggerated the impact of ‘imperialism’ on Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after years in which, except by empire specialists like myself, it had been rather ignored and underplayed. […] the main argument of the book was this: that the ordinary Briton’s relationship to the Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was complex and ambivalent, less soaked in or affected by imperialism than these other scholars claimed – to the extent that many English people, at any rate, possibly even a majority, were almost entirely ignorant of it for most of the nineteenth century.[1] Continue reading “A Decade of ‘Imperial Absent-Mindedness’: A New Talking Empire Podcast”

Prelude to Intervention: French Wars in Africa, Part I

Map: "French geopolitics in Africa and Foccart's legacy" (1960-1991), from Bat's article in Afrique Contemporaine.
Map: “French geopolitics in Africa and Foccart’s legacy” (1960-1991), from Bat’s article in Afrique Contemporaine.

Jean-Pierre Bat
Research Associate, Centre for War, State and Society
Author of Le syndrome Foccart (2012)

In the first of his two-part Forum essay, Dr. Bat illuminates the distinct colonial and post-colonial history that helps explain current French military policy in Africa (1950s-present).

Today, the French Parliament will vote on the country’s present military engagement in the Central African Républic (CAR). Why? Because it remains a (poorly understood) constitutional requirement that any French military intervention overseas be approved by the National Assembly after every four months. Moreover, even if President Nicholas Sarkozy and his successor, François Hollande, have sought to republicanize France’s wars in Africa – dressing them in the clothes of democratic legitimacy and UN approval – the locations and priorities underpinning those interventions speak to a post-colonial inheritance dating back to the 1950s and the era of ‘Mr. Africa’, Jacques Foccart. Continue reading “Prelude to Intervention: French Wars in Africa, Part I”

Does Trade Promote Peace? An Historical and Global Perspective

Global History of Trade and ConflictLucia Coppolaro and Francine McKenzie
Editors of A Global History of Trade and Conflict Since 1500 (Palgrave, 2013)

In the early 17th century, Jan Pieterszoon Coen, the Dutch East India Company’s governor-general in the Indies, explained that trade and war were inseparably linked: ‘we cannot make war without trade nor trade without war’.[1] The utility of war and other violent methods to secure an advantageous commercial position was an extreme view even by the mercantilist standards of the day, but trade and conflict were commonly connected. About one hundred years later, Montesquieu, the Enlightenment political philosopher, reached the radically different conclusion that trade was an instrument of peace; thus in 1748, he wrote ‘Peace is the natural effect of trade’. Continue reading “Does Trade Promote Peace? An Historical and Global Perspective”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial and Global History

ScottishpoundMarc-William Palen

Here are some of the Centre’s top reads for the week:

*For those of you who might have somehow missed Nicholas Kristof’s trolling of the ivory tower in the New York Times (‘Professors, We Need You!’), he took academics to task for not engaging enough with the public. Needless to say, it set off a (predictable) firestorm, with responses, among others, Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial and Global History”

Google Redesigns Historical Newspaper Archive

Google has redesigned its newspaper archive, making it even easier to use for historical research (as noted by Lifehacker). The archive had initially started up in 2008, had a bit of a rocky start, and then was axed in 2011 owing to pressure from newspaper companies.

google newspapers

This revamping of the Google news archive just adds to the seemingly limitless newspaper databases from across the globe that are now available online.

What can a First World War Adventure Novel Tell us About Empire?

buchanjoetext9639stp10Richard Toye

The Guardian recently ran a piece calling for Britons to confront their colonial past by way of now-forgotten empire adventure stories. Professor Richard Toye has done just that, uncovering the imperial side of a stirring adventure tale, The Thirty-Nine Steps (1915).

John Buchan’s 1915 adventure novel The Thirty-Nine Steps, with its dashing hero Richard Hannay, is just a bit of fun – isn’t it? Well, it’s fun all right, but behind it there lays a pretty clear political agenda. Most obviously it’s anti-German, with the plot revolving around a devilish Teutonic plot to steal British military secrets. But there’s also a strong imperial dimension. Continue reading “What can a First World War Adventure Novel Tell us About Empire?”

Debating Human Rights and Decolonization

human rights logoFabian Klose
Leibniz Institute of European History, Mainz
Humanitarianism & Human Rights

What was the role that universal human rights played in the process of decolonization? What links can we identify between both phenomena as they gained real momentum after 1945?

For too long historical research has neglected this issue. Only a few books on the historiography of the human rights idea linked the dissolution of European colonial empires with the debates on universal fundamental rights. Particular mention should be made here of the work by Paul Gordon Lauren (The Evolution of International Human Rights. Visions Seen, Philadelphia 1998) and Brian Simpson (Human Rights and the End of Empire. Britain and Genesis of the European Convention, Oxford 2001), who both addressed for the first time the important connections between human rights discourse and the end of colonial rule. Continue reading “Debating Human Rights and Decolonization”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Marc-William Palen

There has been a great deal of imperial/global news this week:

Photo from a BBC News Night interview with Stuart Hall.
Photo from a BBC News Night interview with Stuart Hall.

*Jamaican-born scholar-activist Stuart Hall passed away at the age of 82. He was the ‘god-father of multiculturalism‘ and a leading cultural theorist. He was also founding editor of the New Left Review and, as the Guardian puts it, he insisted Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Exeter’s ‘The Rhetoric of Empire Conference’, 22-23 May

Martin Thomas 

Announcing a two-day conference hosted by Exeter University’s Centre for War, State and Society22 – 23 May 2014

RhetoricofEmpireConpicWhy did imperialist language become so pervasive in Britain, France and elsewhere in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? What rhetorical devices did political and military leaders, administrators, investors and lobbyists use to justify colonial domination before domestic and foreign audiences? And how far did their colonial opponents mobilize a different rhetoric of rights and freedoms to challenge imperialist discourse? These are some of the questions that we hope to address during this two-day conference, which is funded under a three-year Leverhulme Trust research project led by Professors Martin Thomas and Richard Toye. Continue reading “Exeter’s ‘The Rhetoric of Empire Conference’, 22-23 May”

The Surprising Mr. Churchill

The Imperial & Global Forum is delighted to introduce a collaborative post from Exeter’s History undergraduate students. 

Authors: Jessica Elkington, Hannah Linton, Rachel Smith, William Griffiths, Alice Montague-Johnstone, Leo Springate, William Thomson, Edward Jones, James McCue, Thomas Lambert, Peter Dyson, Gillian Allen, Barnaby Bracher, Katrina Wolfe, Alex Manning, Justin Chan, Adam Collins

Churchill surprising
Winston Churchill. Reg Speller/Getty Images

Winston Churchill is one of history’s most famous figures. But most people’s image of him is derived from a short, if crucial, period of his long life: his campaign against appeasement in the 1930s and his subsequent leadership of Britain in the Second World War. As History students studying the module ‘Churchill and the British Empire’ at Exeter University, we have discovered that he was a figure of greater complexity than most people realise. Here are the most surprising things we have found out so far. Continue reading “The Surprising Mr. Churchill”

2 New History Lectureships Available at Exeter

Lecturer in East/South Asian History, pre-1950 (Education and Research)

University of Exeter -College of Humanities

Ref. P46095

The result of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise confirms Exeter’s position as one of the UK’s leading research-intensive universities. Almost 90% of our research is at internationally recognised levels and every single subject submitted included world-leading (4*) research. When adjusted for the 95% of staff submitted, Exeter ranks among the top 15 in the UK for research out of 159 higher education institutions. The Times Higher Education described Exeter as ‘a rising star among research-intensive institutions’. Continue reading “2 New History Lectureships Available at Exeter”

The Recall of the Legions: A New Perspective on the Anglo-German Naval Rivalry

 David Morgan-Owen
navalWWIVisiting Research Fellow, National Museum of the Royal Navy

British naval policy in the First World War era has become a topic of considerable debate in the last two decades. One of the key issues with which historians have grappled has been the question of the relative importance assigned to home and imperial defence by contemporary politicians and defence planners. Continue reading “The Recall of the Legions: A New Perspective on the Anglo-German Naval Rivalry”

CFP: Entangled Transitions: Between Eastern and Southern Europe 1960s-2014

James Mark

In under two decades, authoritarian political systems collapsed across Europe – in the south of the continent in the 1970s, and then in the east between 1989 and 1991. Although much work has been done on these processes in each region, and comparative work carried out on post-authoritarian transitions and memories, there has yet to be any sustained scholarship that examines the ‘entangledness’ of these processes in the context of broader European and global processes of the late Cold War and its aftermath. Taking a longue durée approach, this conference will explore these inter-relationships between the 1960s and the present day. 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the fall of state socialism and the 40th anniversary of the beginning of the transition from dictatorship on the Iberian Peninsula and in Greece: an ideal time to consider the relationship between these processes that have been central to modern European history. Continue reading “CFP: Entangled Transitions: Between Eastern and Southern Europe 1960s-2014”

Sleuthing the Origins of ‘Global History’

LinkedIn-Power-SleuthingMarc-William Palen
Cross-Posted from the New Global History Forum
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen


History does not repeat itself. The historians repeat one another.

—Max Beerbohm, 1896.

Historians are often charged — sometimes correctly — with precipitously proclaiming a “new” field of study: a field that, upon further investigation, is shown to be remarkably similar to earlier turns in the historiographical timeline. The post-colonial and subaltern “turns” of the 1980s are cases in point, as they, however unwittingly, tended to ignore the prodigious and overlapping work within Area Studies that had appeared in preceding decades. I duly began to wonder if the term “global history” might prove to be yet another illustrative example. Continue reading “Sleuthing the Origins of ‘Global History’”