SOAS, University of London
I have reluctantly forborne to point out that during the war when Egypt was a Protectorate the Home Office used to treat Egyptians as alien extremists.
– Sir Robert Allason Furness, Oriental Secretary in Egypt, 1922 
12 February 2020 marks the five-year anniversary of the UK Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015. The bill – one in a series of acts passed since the Terrorism Act 2000 – was described as giving the UK ‘some of the toughest powers in the world to tackle the increasing threat from international terrorism.’ At the time it was condemned for providing the police with powers that were consequently exercised in an ‘overly-broad, discriminatory and ineffective manner.’
The Act introduced PREVENT, which places a statutory duty on public bodies to work with the police and local authorities to help prevent ‘vulnerable’ people from being drawn into terrorism. As reports and cases have shown, PREVENT works on a racialised and arbitrary logic which results in Muslim communities being suspected. In 2018 for example, a six-year-old child was referred to PREVENT for comments he had learned from the television programme ‘Horrible Histories’. The process caused great distress for the whole family. Wide powers such as these have been attributed in part to the definition of terrorism in the UK Terrorism Act 2000 being ‘one of the broadest in the world.’
The elasticity of the terms ‘terrorism’ and ‘extremism’ of course did not appear with 9/11 or 7/7. Rather, they have a long historical use by imperial states justifying violence against anti-colonial resistance. Cases of British martial law and blacklisting in Egypt in the years surrounding the First World War illustrate the historical racialised and wide-reaching constructions of ‘extremism’ and ‘terrorism’ underpinning contemporary British counter-terrorism legislation. Continue reading “From martial law to counter-terrorism law: lessons from British colonialism in Egypt”
From the pitfalls of symbolic decolonization to the private life of empire, here are this week’s top picks in imperial and global history. Continue reading “This Week’s Top Picks in Imperial & Global History”
We at the Forum are delighted to draw your attention to the magazine Jacobin, which has just published an interview with Prof. James Mark about the new book 1989: A Global History of Eastern Europe, co-authored with Exeter colleagues Bogdan Iacob, Tobias Rupprecht, and Ljubica Spaskovska. Here is the introduction:
On the thirtieth anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, commemorations of the “end of communism” proved rather muted. The Washington Post lamented the dismantling of the democratic institutions so hard-won in 1989, accusing Hungary’s far-right premier Viktor Orbán of antics that would make his communist predecessors “blush.” Writing in the Guardian, liberal historian Timothy Garton-Ash also felt that the “dictators [are] coming back,” but insisted the “spirit of 1989” could resist the spread of so-called “illiberal democracy.”
Both readings conform to a commonplace understanding of what happened in central-eastern Europe after 1989 — a wave of democratic mobilization, cruelly beaten down by new Moscow-aligned autocrats who do not want to embrace “Western values.” This perception has been fueled by the public declarations of many leaders in the “Visegrád” countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia) who have insisted on the preservation of their Christian and national culture as against “globalism” and multiculturalism. Continue reading “Jacobin interview with Prof. James Mark: When Eastern Europe Left the World Behind”
With Boris Johnson hailing parliament’s vote towards Britain leaving the EU on January 31, there is a general consensus among the country’s leaders that there will be an intimate trading relationship with the US after Brexit. But whenever the question of a deal comes up in the media, there is usually much talk of stumbling blocks.
There is the war of words between UK chancellor Sajid Javid and US treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin over a digital tax on American companies in the UK, for instance. Or fears that the NHS will be sold off to US healthcare giants.
Much is also written about the difficulty the UK faces in steering a course between its EU neighbours and the overwhelming political might of Washington. For example, will the UK have to abandon the Iran nuclear deal to win free-trade concessions from America?
In light of the “special relationship”, you might wonder how these trade negotiations can be so testy before they are even underway. As my recent book suggests, the conflict may well lie in the historic trading relationship between the two countries. Much as Britain and America are “two nations divided by a common language”, they are also divided by their understanding of trade. To comprehend this, you have to go back to the American Revolution and beyond. Continue reading “America has a unique 300 year old view of free trade – UK must recognise this to strike a deal”