Andrew Thompson Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History History Department, University of Exeter
An earlier version of this article appeared in the Conversation
Last week I attended the final “Provocation” of the Warwick Commission on the Future of Cultural Value. Several such enquiries are currently in train. Together they promise a major re-examination of the UK’s arts and culture as one of the country’s greatest assets. They will no doubt touch on many things. But it will be particularly interesting to see what they have to say about the influence of culture on the economy. For this is the holy grail of the quest to quantify cultural value – a very old question yet one stubbornly resistant to an answer.
Culture, as described by one celebrated critic, is among the most awkward words in the English language. The broad and diffuse nature of the concept has meant that many economists have long been reluctant co-opt culture into their debates about development. Yet the case for spending public money on culture is greatly weakened by this failure to get to grips with its relationship to the economy. At a time when the Institute for Fiscal Studies’ warns that up to 60% of public sector spending cuts are yet to be implemented, the arts and cultural sector more than ever needs to make its case to government in a manner commensurable with claims made by other competing calls on the public purse. Continue reading “Culture Makes All The Difference: Reclaiming the Culture of Economics”→
Among the most frustrating experiences of my PhD were days spent scouring local newspapers at the ramshackle (and now closed) British Library Newspaper Reading Room at Colindale, and the inexplicably dark microfilm room at Cambridge University Library. Spending a few weeks working at the latter in the winter would provide good training for life at an Antarctic research base. With these experiences in mind I have been surprised at how large a part newspapers have played in my current research on the history of British trade identities in the UK and wider Empire/Commonwealth.
Recent years have seen a worldwide explosion in access to digitised newspapers, which obviously opens up a range of exciting new opportunities to researchers in imperial and global history. Having never previously conducted research in Australian archives, I was able to access thousands of articles from the National Library of Australia from the comfort of my home, significantly shaping both my post-doctoral funding application and the issues I was to explore in the archive itself. Yet the ever-growing range of newspaper material available also offers significant challenges to how we do research and train our students. Continue reading “The Global Challenges of Digital Newspapers”→
Martin Wolf’s new volume on the causes and consequences of the world financial crisis comes with generous advance praise from, among others, Mervyn King, Larry Summers and Ben Bernanke. That, you might think, is a bit like a manual on maritime safety with jacket blurbs from the crew of the Titanic. But there is not much comfort for the these men within the book’s pages. Bernanke, in particular, gets it in the neck: “even two months before the crisis broke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve had next to no idea what was about to hit him, his institution and the global economy. To be blunt, he was almost clueless.” It seems he’s not too careful about reading the books he endorses, either.
The international Global Humanitarianism | Research Academy(GHRA) offers research training to advanced PhD candidates and early postdocs. It combines academic sessions at the Leibniz Institute of European History in Mainz and the Imperial and Global History Centre at the University of Exeter with archival sessions at the Archives of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva. The Research Academy addresses early career researchers who are working in the related fields of humanitarianism, international humanitarian law, peace and conflict studies as well as human rights covering the period from the 18th to the 20th century. It supports scholarship on the ideas and practices of humanitarianism in the context of international, imperial and global history thus advancing our understanding of global governance in humanitarian crises of the present. Continue reading “Call for Applications: Global Humanitarianism Research Academy”→
In April 1955, Archbishop Makarios III—head of the Greek Orthodox Church of Cyprus—arrived at the airport in Bandung, Indonesia to little fanfare. The real excitement, in the form of the first Asian-African Conference, was already underway. Representatives from twenty-nine newly independent African and Asian states attended the Bandung Conference. Many of the major personalities of what would later become known as the “Third World” and the Non-Aligned Movement—such as India’s Jawaharlal Nehru and Egyptian President Gamal Adbel Nasser—dominated the proceedings. Attendees straddled both sides of the Cold War divide, and tensions between the political Left and Right emerged as a key topic of discussion at the conference. The other major point of discussion was colonialism. It was this topic that most concerned Archbishop Makarios.
But Makarios was not from the “Third World,” nor did he represent a newly independent state. He was the only European leader to attend the conference and Cyprus was the only colony represented. Besides, Makarios and his fellow Greek-Cypriot anticolonial nationalists did not seek independence at all, but rather the union of Cyprus with Greece—an idea called enosis. This desire for enosis drew significant support from the conservative yet politically-active Greek Orthodox clergy, which colonial officials viewed as an unlikely group of revolutionaries. As one scholar has noted, “that such a political movement was led by an Archbishop, and backed by priests, was viewed in many British circles . . . as little short of weird.”