Violence and Colonial Order: A New Talking Empire Podcast

thomas violence and colonial order

Richard Toye
History Department, University of Exeter

Follow on Twitter @RichardToye

Professor Martin Thomas’s book Violence and Colonial Order: Police, Workers and Protest in the European Colonial Empires, 1918-1940 is a pioneering, multi-empire account of the relationship between the politics of imperial repression and the economic structures of European colonies between the two World Wars. Ranging across colonial Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, Thomas explores the structure of local police forces, their involvement in colonial labour control and the containment of uprisings and dissent. This work sheds new light on broader trends in the direction and intent of colonial state repression. It shows that the management of colonial economies, particularly in crisis conditions, took precedence over individual imperial powers’ particular methods of rule in determining the forms and functions of colonial police actions. In this Talking Empire podcast, I interview Professor Thomas about the issues raised by the book.

Tribute to Sir Christopher Bayly (1945-2015)


Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

News of the death of Sir Christopher Bayly swept  across the world last week. We at the Centre for Imperial & Global History join the global community of scholars in expressing our sadness at his untimely passing. Below, we include some of the tributes to Bayly that have appeared in the days since: Continue reading “Tribute to Sir Christopher Bayly (1945-2015)”

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History


Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From covering up Soviet crimes to how the Vietnamese view the Vietnam War 40 years after, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Imagining Markets workshop Report, Exeter, April 2015

Reed Hall1

David Thackeray
University of Exeter

Cross-Posted from Imagining Markets

A chilly start at Reed Hall, Exeter!

We were delighted to welcome Imagining Markets network participants to Exeter for our first event last week. This is the first of a series of three academic workshops, with subsequent events to be held in London and Cambridge over the next year, exploring various facets of Britain’s economic culture and its relationship with key markets.

Paul Young opened proceedings with a paper exploring how the growth of the refrigerated meat and beef stock industries led to new understandings of the South American environment in Victorian literature such as the eco-romance The Purple Land and in advertising, where the Uruguay-based Leibig’s company had to compete with the imperial populism of Bovril.

Alan Booth introduced a new project exploring the development of the Rowntree business lectures, which emerged after World War I in a context of growing global economic competition to British business, and interest in new American methods of industrial psychology and management consultancy.
Continue reading “Imagining Markets workshop Report, Exeter, April 2015”

H-Diplo Review of “The Imperialism of Economic Nationalism”

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Marc-William Palen.  “The Imperialism of Economic Nationalism, 1890-1913.”  Diplomatic History 39:1 (January 2015):  157-185.  DOI:  10.1093/dh/dht135.

Cross-posted from H-Diplo

Reviewed by David Sim, University College London

The Obama administration’s engagement with the Cuban government has led politicians and pundits of all stripes to reflect on the relationship between commerce and politics and, in so doing, to reanimate the concept of ‘the open door.’ Marc-William Palen, a Lecturer in Imperial History at the University of Exeter, argues that this concept has been misunderstood and misapplied by historians of American foreign relations from the 1960s to the present.  Building on his work on the global impact of the highly protectionist McKinley Tariff of 1890, Palen sets out to rethink the characterisation of American power at the end of the nineteenth century by outlining what he describes as the “imperialism of economic nationalism,” as distinct from the “imperialism of free trade” (163).1

What is striking, he suggests, is not the American commitment to liberalised trade and the free movement of goods, people and capital, but rather the tenacity with which a band of influential Republican statesmen married their commitment to a high tariff to a programme of reciprocity and, ultimately, to an imperial foreign policy in the late nineteenth century. Convinced of the maturity of American industry but anxious that the U.S. domestic market had become saturated, these statesmen sought a solution in what Palen calls “an expansive closed door,” as administration after administration “coercively enforced a policy of closed colonial markets in Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.” (163).

Palen opens this sharp article with a smart pair of quotations. The first is from William Appleman Williams, arguably the single most influential historian of American foreign policy in the second half of the twentieth century. “The Open Door Policy,” he writes, “was America’s version of the liberal policy of informal empire or free trade imperialism” (157). The second person quoted is Benjamin B. Wallace, long-time member of the U.S. Tariff Commission, who would not have recognised Williams’s characterisation. “The open door does not and should not mean free trade,” he bluntly stated in March 1924 (157). These two interpretations offer a neat frame for Palen’s study, and highlight a basic but important historiographical insight that informs the article. Historians have long noted the protectionist credentials of the late-nineteenth-century Republican Party, yet the analytical purchase of ‘free trade imperialism,’ formulated in the context of British imperial history by John Gallagher and Ronald Robinson and imported to American historiography by Williams and others, has endured.2  Why have so many insightful historians persisted with such an obviously ill-fitting concept?

Continue reading “H-Diplo Review of “The Imperialism of Economic Nationalism””

This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History

Woolworths’ controversial ANZAC Day campaign poster.

Marc-William Palen
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @MWPalen

From Lincoln’s forgotten post-war black colonization scheme to misremembering the First World War, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”

These Dangerous Women: Filming the 1915 Women’s Peace Congress


Charlotte Bill
Producer and Project Manager, Clapham Film Unit

“My sister needs a film”, my contact said to me in a Community Resource basement on Brixton Hill.

“What’s the story?”

“These women in 1915 got together to try to stop World War 1. They travelled right across war torn Europe. They even had to travel by fishing boat at one point – the ferries weren’t running. They were from warring and neutral nations. The organisation they set up is still running today and my sister is part of it. “

I knew at once it was a great story that had to be told on its centenary. I went to Petts Wood Quaker Meeting House to meet my contact’s sister, Sheila Triggs. She was at a meeting of the Orpington branch of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF), the organisation set up in 1915 and still going today. I showed the group my previous work and offered to help raise the funding to engage members of the organisation and outside volunteers to make a documentary, touring exhibition, booklet and set of oral history recordings.

The Heritage Lottery Fund was immediately interested in the project and I got together with the WILPF History Group to write a successful bid. Helen Kay and Katrina Gass from WILPF History Group had already spent years researching the early members of their organisation and they put together a list of women who had been granted passports to attend the International Women’s Congress at the Hague in 1915.

The 1915 Women’s Peace Congress and the Origins of the WILPF

In 1915 women all over Europe were trying to get the vote. They had formed an international women’s suffrage alliance (IWSA) and felt they had a lot in common with other women regardless of national boundaries. When the war broke out, the international meeting planned for 1915 in Berlin couldn’t take place.  Continue reading “These Dangerous Women: Filming the 1915 Women’s Peace Congress”