You are warmly invited to attend the fourth annual lecture of the Centre for Imperial and Global History, which will be delivered by Prof. Elizabeth Buettner of the University of Amsterdam. Her lecture will be entitled ‘Colonialism: A Shared EUropean History and Legacy’.
When/where: It will take place on Thursday 16 May at 5pm in the Queen’s Building, Margaret Rooms 2 & 3.
Attendance is free but please do register on Eventbrite.
Prof. Buettner’s research centres on British imperial, social, and cultural history since the late nineteenth century along with other European nations’ histories of late colonialism, decolonisation and their domestic ramifications. In the coming years she looks forward to expanding upon previous research on postcolonial South Asian migration and cultures in diaspora, placing South Asians in Britain within wider transnational contexts. Prof. Buettner received her BA from Barnard College of Columbia University and her MA and PhD from the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. She has taught in England at the University of York since 2000 and in 2012-2013 held a senior research fellowship at the Freiburg Institute for Advanced Studies in Germany in conjunction with a British Academy mid-career fellowship. Buettner’s publications include Empire Families: Britons and Late Imperial India (Oxford University Press, 2004) together with articles in the Journal of Modern History, History & Memory, Scottish Historical Review, Annales de Démographie Historique, Ab Imperio, Food and History, and a number of edited collections.
Brexit-era Britain saw discussions of Europe and Britain’s imperial past explode in political and public culture, with some leading figures in the ‘leave’ campaign notoriously going so far as to look forward to an ‘Empire 2.0’ of enhanced global engagements once Britain became freed from continental shackles. Yet imperial histories, heritage, and legacies are anything but a uniquely British ‘island story’. This talk builds upon selected themes addressed in my book Europe after Empire: Decolonization, Society, and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2016), where I considered Britain as well as French, Belgian, Dutch, and Portuguese histories of coming to terms with the end of empire at home with a special emphasis on migration, multicultural societies, and memories of empire in postcolonial Western Europe. It connects topics that have received most attention among scholars who focus on Western European national cases with a newer but growing body of work that positions colonialism and empire as decisive aspects of European history across the continent, extending to Nordic countries as well as Central and Eastern Europe. Making the ‘imperial turn’ not only characteristic of specific nations but rather a shared European history entails taking a ‘continental turn’, one that allows fresh approaches to Europe’s overseas and continental empires past and illuminates the still understudied colonial history and heritage of today’s European Union.
The ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire‘ Conference was held last weekend at Garrison Library, Gibraltar. Professor Richard Toye, Director of Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History, interviews Dr. Olivette Otele (Bath Spa) on the question of contested and controversial history and memorialisation in Bristol.
The ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire‘ Conference was held last weekend at Garrison Library, Gibraltar. Professor Richard Toye, Director of Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History, interviews Prof. Astrid Rasch (NTNU) about the conference and the ‘Embers of Empire’ project.
In case you missed it, rumors of the May government’s plan to stockpile food supplies have finally gotten people talking about what Brexit will mean for food prices. As dedicated readers of the Forum know, I’ve been trying to draw attention to this important issue ever since the referendum vote.
The Windrush scandal and the subsequent resignation of yet another Cabinet Minister, Amber Rudd, means that Theresa May’s continued occupancy of No. 10 Downing Street appears ever more insecure. Her political obituary has already been written on multiple occasions, and yet she continues to survive.
Has there ever been a British Prime Minister who has displayed such resilience when their odds of political survival looked so bleak?
Yes. His name is Harold Wilson.
These days Wilson is more commonly compared to David Cameron, as in 2016 when Cameron attempted without success to follow Wilson’s playbook on how to win a European referendum. However, in political style and temperament Wilson has far more in common with May than Cameron.
In the run-up to 2016 Brexit referendum, advocates of staying in the EU made significant efforts to invoke the memory of Winston Churchill. Remainers pointed to the fact that, in Zurich in 1946, he had urged the creation of ‘a kind of United States of Europe’. They seemed to regard him as something of a trump card – if Britain’s iconic wartime leader had been one of the fathers of the EU, who would dare to be against? However, as a persuasive tool, it never quite seemed to work. On the one hand, Leavers could legitimately point out that Churchill had said that Great Britain should be one of the ‘the friends and sponsors of the new Europe’, not one of its actual members. On the other hand, the message was just not quite simple enough; against the ingrained, popular bulldog image, it was tough to sell Churchill as a complex figure who was prepared to make concessions on British sovereignty in the interests of future peace.
It also didn’t help that Churchill’s pro-European campaign took place during a period of his life – the 1945-51 Opposition years – that few members of the public know much about. Popular memory of Churchill focuses to some extent on the 1930s but above all on the war years, and the summer of 1940 in particular. In fact, then, the referendum campaign’s most rhetorically effective invocation of Churchill was made by David Cameron during his appearance on Question Time. He did not attempt to argue that Churchill would have favoured membership of the EU as such, but rather – in response to an audience member who described him (Cameron) as a Twenty First Century Neville Chamberlain – he deployed a more emotionally powerful response:
At my office I sit two yards away from cabinet room where Winston Churchill decided in May to fight on against Hitler. The best and greatest decision perhaps anyone has made in our country. He didn’t want to be alone. He wanted to be fighting with the French, the Poles and the others. But he didn’t quit. He didn’t quit on democracy, he didn’t quit on freedom.
We want to fight for those things today. You can’t win if you’re not in the room.
Moreover, when one actually looks at the details of Churchill’s position on Europe, it’s not clear that he fits neatly into either the Leave or the Remain narrative. The two books under review, both excellent in their different ways, illustrate the point. Continue reading “Old Man in A Hurry”→