Archival practices rarely make headlines. Databases are sexy, archives less so – at least for most people. Whenever we do read about archives, it’s almost exclusively in the context of something disappearing. Apparently, we never know a good thing until it’s gone.
Most recently, it transpired that the Home Office apparently destroyed Windrush landing cards eight years ago. These, it now seems, were crucial documents in establishing the legal status of Caribbean-born residents who arrived in the 1950s and 1960s. The question of exactly who is to take the blame for this action remains under debate.
This is not the first time the government has had to admit to this kind of practice. A few months ago the Foreign Office admitted to its role in key documents “disappearing” from the National Archives. Among them were papers on the colonial administration of Palestine, the Falklands, Northern Ireland’s Troubles and a score of other sensitive issues.
It’s unclear why the landing cards were destroyed. The Home Office says the decision was taken on data protection grounds and that does seem to be a valid argument. Of course, that argument, too, can be, and frequently is, abused. Continue reading “Windrush scandal: a historian on why destroying archives is never a good idea”
University of Hull
Six years ago, in 2012, the dramatised arrival of the ‘Windrush Generation’ provided many British viewers with one of the most moving moments in the opening ceremony of the London Olympic Games. The dozens of black Londoners and the giant model of the Empire Windrush, which had docked at Tilbury in June 1948, entering the stadium during the ceremony’s historical pageant stood for the hundreds of thousands of black Britons who had migrated from the Caribbean to Britain, which was then still their imperial metropole, between 1948 and 1962.
The moment when the ‘Windrush Generation’ joined the pageant’s chaotic whirl of characters drawn from modern British social and cultural history symbolised, for millions of its viewers (if not those people of colour with more reason to be suspicious of British promises), a Britain finally inclusive enough to have made the post-Windrush black presence as integral a part of its national story as Remembrance or Brunel. Today, however, members of this same symbolic generation have been threatened with deportation – and some have already been deported – because they have been unable to prove their immigration status despite living in Britain for more than fifty years. The Daily Mirror’s Brian Reade was far from alone in wondering where it had all gone wrong since 2012.
What kind of British government would deport the children of the Empire Windrush? Not the openly fascist regime that the National Front took to the streets for in the 1970s, or that Alan Moore imagined taking control of a near-future Britain in his 1988 comic V for Vendetta (written at the height of the Thatcher years). Rather, as most of the British public only realised after the revelations of the Guardian’s Amelia Gentleman connecting dozens of individual stories into a chilling pattern, the answer lies with the Conservative government of Theresa May. Continue reading “Where did it all go wrong? The Windrush myth after London 2012”
David Thackeray, Richard Toye, and Andrew Thompson
University of Exeter
This book considers how Britain has imagined its economic role in the wider world and how British ideas have influenced global debates about market relationships between the start of the nineteenth century and the UK’s first European referendum. In doing so, the authors explore the interplay between the high political thought of theorists, the activities of officials and businesspeople, and the everyday experience of the wider public. Across the contributions to this book there is a consideration of the competing factors which affected market decisions and the processes of ‘economic imagination’.
The economist Joseph Schumpeter put the concept of imagination at the heart of the entrepreneurial process. It was this quality which, above all, businesspeople required if they were to succeed: ‘the capacity of seeing things in a way which proves afterwards to be true, even though it cannot be established [as such] at the time’. He saw that economies are, in a sense, imaginative constructs – making calculations about and placing faith in the future and its possibilities are key qualities of investors and entrepreneurs.
Schumpeter’s work on the entrepreneurial imagination was an important influence in the development of Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s concept of the ‘official mind’, which they saw as the key driving force behind British imperial expansion in the nineteenth century. As they noted in Africa and the Victorians, London policy-makers ‘were usually dealing with countries they had never seen, with questions apprehended intellectually from reports and recommendations on paper….it was the idea and analysis of African situations in Whitehall, and not the realities in Africa as such which moved Victorian statesmen to act or not to act’.
The question of how changing levels of information available to economic actors has affected the role of imagination in decision making in the modern world is an important one. As international business scholars have acknowledged, economic imagination is ultimately shaped by the interpretation of past experience, access to information about markets (which can sometimes be faulty), and hopes placed in the future. Perceptions of distance between markets are ultimately culturally constructed. The ‘physic distance’ between markets perceived by businesspeople, policy makers, and consumers may not correspond to actual measurable differences in institutions, preferences, and values as economic actors may exaggerate or underestimate the cultural distance between two countries involved in a transaction.
The 2016 EU referendum provides a good example of how public debates about an imagined economic future can radically reshape public policy. Continue reading “Imagining Britain’s economic future, c.1800-1975”
From why educators struggle with the legacy of empire to the casual colonialism of Laura Croft and Indiana Jones, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
BRITISH ACADEMY, 10–11 Carlton House Terrace, London SW1Y 5AH. Charing Cross / Piccadilly Circus Tube.
This conference addresses questions about neoliberalism’s intellectual (and other) origins, and why it came to play such a powerful role across the globe. It will develop and extend new work which seeks to understand the rise of multiple neoliberalisms as ideology and practice.
FIND OUT MORE britishacademy.ac.uk/conferences
All welcome. Registration fee payable.
THURSDAY 7th JUNE
INTRODUCTION 9.15-9.30 James Mark, Richard Toye, Tobias Rupprecht, Ljubica Spaskovska
9.30-11 CIRCULATIONS: THE COLD WAR AND AFTER
Chair: James Mark (Exeter)
Vanessa Ogle (UC Berkeley), Diplomat Capitalists, Spooks, and the spread of Free-Market Capitalism: Revisiting the Global Cold War, 1960s-1970s
Quinn Slobodian (Harvard/ Wellesley), White Supremacy and the Neoliberals: South Africa as Laboratory and Limit Case
11.15- 12.45 CIRCULATIONS: THE COLD WAR AND AFTER (2)
Tobias Rupprecht (Exeter), Pinochet in Prague: Latin American Neoliberalism and (Post-) Socialist Eastern Europe
Richard Toye (Exeter) and Daisuke Ikemoto (Meiji Gakuin University), Contesting ‘economic miracles’: neoliberal exchange and resistance in the UK and Japan
1.45 – 3.15 LABOUR, GENDER AND NEOLIBERALISM
Chair: Matthew Eagleton-Pierce (SOAS)
Pál Nyíri (Amsterdam), “Culture talk,” spectres of socialism and neoliberal management techniques in a Chinese-run factory in Hungary
Artemy Kalinovsky (Amsterdam), Abandoning the Factory: Gender, Ethnicity, and the Soviet Central Asian Entrepreneur
3.30- 5.00 LABOUR, GENDER AND NEOLIBERALISM (2)
Pun Ngai (Hong Kong University), Neoliberalism in Crisis: Producing new subjects of Migrant Labour in China
Bernhard Rieger (Leiden), Making Homo Oeconomicus? Unemployment Policy Since the Sixties in Transatlantic Context
FRIDAY 8th JUNE
9-10.30 INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS: BETWEEN THE GLOBAL AND THE LOCAL
Chair: Ljubica Spaskovska (Exeter)
Alexander Kentikelenis (Oxford), The Making of Global Neoliberalism: The IMF, Structural Adjustment, and the Clandestine Politics of International Institutional Change
Jennifer Bair (Virginia), The Long 1970s: NIEO, Neoliberalism and the Right to Development
10.30 – 10.45 REFRSHMENTS
10.45- 12.15 INTERNATIONAL INSTITUTIONS: BETWEEN THE GLOBAL AND THE LOCAL (2)
Stephanie Decker (Aston Business School), The World Bank in Ghana, 1970-1985 – Neoliberalism and institutional voids
Jörg Wiegratz (Leeds), Embedding the neoliberal moral order: The political economy of moral change in Uganda
1.15-2.45 SOCIALISM/ POSTSOCIALISM AND THE RISE OF NEOLIBERALISM
Chair : Artemy Kalinovsky (Amsterdam)
Johanna Bockman (George Mason), Recovering the Socialisms in Neoliberalism: Anti-Colonial Banking, Anti-Capitalist Markets, and Revolutionary Structural Adjustment
Julian Gewirtz (Harvard Kennedy School), The Transnational Roots of China’s Socialist Market Economy
REFRESHMENTS 2.45 -3.00
3.00 – 4.30 SOCIALISM/ POSTSOCIALISM AND THE RISE OF NEOLIBERALISM (2)
Susan Bayly (Cambridge), Neoliberalisms in Asian global dialogue: The perspective from late-socialist Vietnam
David Priestland (Oxford), Embedding Neoliberalism: Politics, Markets and Morality in the Czech Republic and Russia
4.30 -5.00 CONCLUDING DISCUSSION