Imagining Markets: Conceptions of Empire/Commonwealth, Europe and China in Britain’s economic future since the 1870s

Senate House

2nd workshop, London, September 2015- report

Senate House has featured in many guises from being the supposed model for the Ministry of Truth in George Orwell’s 1984 to Bertie Wooster’s New York apartment block in the TV adaptation of Jeeves and Wooster. This month it played host to the second of three academic workshops connected to the AHRC Imagining Markets network led by David Thackeray, Andrew Thompson and Richard Toye from the University of Exeter. You can read more about the project at www.imaginingmarkets.com.

We began by discussing how the idea of economic imagination can shape our understandings of political economy, and how this cultural idea has various facets (imaginings of economic utopias/ dystopias; entrepreneurship; the imagining of status and aspiration). Papers focused on how a variety of actors shaped ideas of the economic future and interconnected through networks at the level of government and the ‘official mind’; business groups; cultural organisations; advertisers; and civil society. Continue reading “Imagining Markets: Conceptions of Empire/Commonwealth, Europe and China in Britain’s economic future since the 1870s”

Sydney’s Global Slavery Scandal of 1857

Sugarcane harvesters, Reunion Island c.1885
Sugarcane harvesters, Reunion Island

Karin Speedy
Macquarie University, Sydney
Follow on Twitter @KarinESpeedy

In 1857, 51 Gilbertese (I-Kiribati) and 14 Solomon Islanders were spirited away from their homes. They were transported on the Sydney-based barque Sutton, and then sold as indentured sugar labourers on the French-owned island of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. When the scandal hit the shores of Sydney, the incident  shifted from a global diplomatic dispute between the British and French empires to a local story, revealing the complexity of the colonial space where culpability was tied to local politics, class, and notions of nationality.[1] Continue reading “Sydney’s Global Slavery Scandal of 1857”

For Fear of ‘Turning Native’: British Colonialism in Uruguay

PRIZE GIVING. Victoria Hall 1909. Second Prize Giving ceremony of the new school. The theatre was a gift of the British colony in Uruguay to Victoria on her Diamond Jubilee, but was inaugurated long after she had passed away. Constantly in financial problems it was always a problem for the community.
PRIZE GIVING. Victoria Hall 1909. Second Prize Giving ceremony of the new school. The theatre was a gift of the British colony in Uruguay to Victoria on her Diamond Jubilee, but was inaugurated long after she had passed away. Constantly in financial problems, it was always a problem for the community.

Alvaro Cuenca
Montevideo, Uruguay

Uruguay was never really considered part of the formal British Empire,[1] but it is commonly used as the typical illustration of Britain’s informal empire. Most studies on the relationship between Great Britain and Uruguay during the 19th century are economic and political.[2] Missing are the social and cultural responses of the British colonists to what they perceived as an alien and dangerous environment.

The British colony in Uruguay was never more than 2000 strong, but during its apogee, between the last decade of the 19th century and the first decade of the 20th, the colony certainly wielded enormous economic power. This small group of British subjects became immersed in the local population: the native criollos, who, although they were all third- of fourth-generation descendants of European origin, were nonetheless considered culturally inferior. The British leaders of the colony in Uruguay defined the classic cultural and social strategies to combat and defeat the most profound fear of the Late Victorian period: turning native. Continue reading “For Fear of ‘Turning Native’: British Colonialism in Uruguay”

The Jameson Raid and the ‘Cheap Extension of Empire’

Empire makers and breakers' - Vanity Fair illustration of the House of Commons inquiry into the Jameson Raid, Nov. 1897. Sir William Harcourt (second from right) sought to use the Raid to attack the position of Cecil Rhodes (centre).
Empire makers and breakers’ – Vanity Fair illustration of the House of Commons inquiry into the Jameson Raid, Nov. 1897. Sir William Harcourt (second from right) sought to use the Raid to attack the position of Cecil Rhodes (centre).

Simon Mackley
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @SimonMackley

What was the nature of British imperial expansion? Did British imperialism constitute a form of globalisation? These were the questions put to the participants at the opening of the 2015 International PhD Forum at Peking University on 10th July, which Simon attended as part of a delegation from the University of Exeter, along with postgraduates from PKU and the University of Durham. Drawing on his wider doctoral research into the British Liberal Party and the South African question in late-Victorian and Edwardian Britain, Simon seeks to tackle the first question by analysing the Liberal critique of the British South Africa Company following the Jameson Raid of 1895, and the form of imperialism it was alleged to represent.

The end of 1895 had seen British South African Company (BSAC) forces, under the direction of Cecil Rhodes, launch an attempted invasion and coup against the South African Republic. The action, which became known as the Jameson Raid, was a total failure, but the political fallout in Britain was immense, with a particular focus on the relationship between the Chartered Company and the conspiracy. In seeking to further our understandings of the nature of British imperial expansion, the Jameson Raid might seem like an odd choice of focus by comparison with other episodes in Imperial South African history; although an important precursor to the South African War of 1899-1902, the Raid itself provided no territorial gains for the Empire, and indeed arguably weakened the British position in the region. However, an analysis of the political controversy generated by the Raid in Britain, and particularly the public rhetoric deployed by political actors, provides real insight into how the expansion of the Empire and the forces of imperialism operated as political issues within late-Victorian Britain. Continue reading “The Jameson Raid and the ‘Cheap Extension of Empire’”

British Soft Power in South Asia: Historicizing Deglobalization

british_empire_board_game_box

David Thackeray
History Department, University of Exeter
Follow on Twitter @d_thackeray

Cross-posted from History & Policy

Many of the core debates in UK politics today concern the nation’s future trade: the question of Scottish independence, devolution of political power to the regions, and a potential referendum on EU membership. Exploring the history of British trade identities can provide important insights into how we got here and the potential choices for policy makers. As historian Jim Tomlinson has argued, the twentieth century witnessed a gradual process of the ‘partial de-globalisation’ of British regions, with the declining influence of manufacturing and the growth of a more atomised service-sector economy. The discontents this has caused, exacerbated by the recent worldwide economic downturn, have been seized upon by parties such as the SNP and UKIP. Continue reading “British Soft Power in South Asia: Historicizing Deglobalization”

Empire: The Controversies of British Imperialism

MOOC pic

Exeter’s Centre for Imperial and Global History launches a new, free online course.

We are delighted to announce that, starting in January 2015, we will be running a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) on the history of the British Empire.

The British Empire was the largest empire ever seen. It ruled over a quarter of the world’s population and paved the way for today’s global economy. But British imperialism isn’t without controversy, and it continues to cause enormous disagreement among historians today.This free online course will help you understand why.

Continue reading “Empire: The Controversies of British Imperialism”

The 1914 Home Rule Act – Is It Worth Celebrating?

homerule

Richard Toye
Follow on Twitter @RichardToye

The following remarks were made by Professor Richard Toye at an event held this week at the Irish Embassy to commemorate the centenary of the Third Home Rule Act. The event, which also featured Professors Paul Bew and Michael Laffan, and former Taoiseach John Bruton, will be broadcast on BBC Parliament at 9pm on 5 July.

The 1914 Home Rule Act was, by any standards, a messy compromise. But was it a good compromise or a bad one? Continue reading “The 1914 Home Rule Act – Is It Worth Celebrating?”

A Scottish Referendum on the Failed Empire?

Dr. Bryan S. Glass
History Department, Texas State University
Follow on Twitter @glass_bryan

Glass Scottish NationWith the Scottish independence referendum just around the corner, Dr. Glass, General Editor of The British Scholar Society and founder of the journal Britain and the Worlddiscusses the complicated relationship between the British Empire and Scottish nationalism following decolonisation. He will be debating Michael Gove on these very issues later this month at the Chalke Valley History Festival. Dr. Glass’s book, The Scottish Nation at Empire’s End, was released today by Palgrave Macmillan.

The Scottish independence referendum is just a little over three months away.  Pundits are constantly discussing or debating why Scotland should either remain within the United Kingdom or vote for an independence that would look far different from what the Scots last experienced in 1707. Continue reading “A Scottish Referendum on the Failed Empire?”

Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and the Roads of Empire

Cross-posted from Exeter’s College of Humanities News

Thomas Fight or FlightA new book by the Centre’s Professor Martin Thomas shows how Britain’s impending withdrawal from Afghanistan and France’s recent dispatch of troops to the troubled Central African Republic are but the latest indicators of a long-standing pattern of decolonisation.

Since 1945 most British and French overseas security operations have taken place in places with current or past empire connections. Most of these actions occurred in the context of the contested end of imperial rule  or decolonisation. Some were extraordinarily violent; others, far less so. Continue reading “Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and the Roads of Empire”

Adam Smith and Empire: A New Talking Empire Podcast

Marc-William Palen

Wealth of NationsWithin the field of imperial history, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) is commonly associated with the anti-imperial economic doctrine that arose in the mid nineteenth century alongside the rise of Free Trade England. This ideology drew inspiration from Smith’s condemnation of the British Empire for being unnecessarily mercantilistic, expensive, and atavistic. Smith’s critique of imperialism came to be known as “Cobdenism”, named after Victorian free trade apostle Richard Cobden, the anti-imperial radical who led the overthrow of England’s protectionist Corn Laws in 1846.

But the longer imperial legacy of the Wealth of Nations is much more . . . complicated. Smith’s work was transformed into an amorphous text regarding the imperial question throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Adam Smith had left behind an ambiguous legacy on the subject of empire: a legacy that left long-term effects upon subsequent British imperial debates.

Continue reading “Adam Smith and Empire: A New Talking Empire Podcast”

A Decade of ‘Imperial Absent-Mindedness’: A New Talking Empire Podcast

porter absentminded imperialistsRichard Toye

In 2004, Bernard Porter published The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society and Culture in Britain. It immediately became a controversial work. Porter later reflected that the book:

was mainly a response to certain scholars (and some others) who, I felt, had hitherto simplified and exaggerated the impact of ‘imperialism’ on Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after years in which, except by empire specialists like myself, it had been rather ignored and underplayed. […] the main argument of the book was this: that the ordinary Briton’s relationship to the Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was complex and ambivalent, less soaked in or affected by imperialism than these other scholars claimed – to the extent that many English people, at any rate, possibly even a majority, were almost entirely ignorant of it for most of the nineteenth century.[1] Continue reading “A Decade of ‘Imperial Absent-Mindedness’: A New Talking Empire Podcast”

The Recall of the Legions: A New Perspective on the Anglo-German Naval Rivalry

 David Morgan-Owen
navalWWIVisiting Research Fellow, National Museum of the Royal Navy

British naval policy in the First World War era has become a topic of considerable debate in the last two decades. One of the key issues with which historians have grappled has been the question of the relative importance assigned to home and imperial defence by contemporary politicians and defence planners. Continue reading “The Recall of the Legions: A New Perspective on the Anglo-German Naval Rivalry”

Top Christmas Picks in Imperial & Global History

christmasbooksNeed some fun reading on imperial and global history over the holiday break? Here are some of the Imperial & Global Forum‘s top recommendations: Continue reading “Top Christmas Picks in Imperial & Global History”

Covering Up the Dark Side of Decolonisation

Gareth Curless

Historians of empire have long suspected that documents from the colonies were transferred back to Britain during the last days of imperial rule, only never to enter into the public domain. It was no small surprise therefore when in April 2011 the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO), under pressure from a high court judge, admitted that it had a secret archive of nearly 9,000 files from 37 colonies. Perhaps the biggest surprise from the ruling was how easy it was for the FCO to keep these documents hidden from historians for so long. Continue reading “Covering Up the Dark Side of Decolonisation”

How Should Historians Consider Nelson Mandela?

nelson-mandelaRichard Toye

The sad news of the death of Nelson Mandela has led many commentators to reflect on how he will be remembered. His reputation is now, and has been for many years, almost uniquely positive. So it should be, and let’s hope it will remain that way. Let this not, however, be at the expense of historical complexity. Here are some points which historians should bear in mind when reflecting on Mandela’s career and on his evolution from freedom fighter to world statesman. Continue reading “How Should Historians Consider Nelson Mandela?”