Where did it all go wrong? The Windrush myth after London 2012

The Windrush generation arrived in the UK after World War II. Credit: PA

Catherine Baker
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”

Prelude to Bandung: The Interwar Origins of Anti-Colonialism

The Gathering of Visionary Anti-Imperialism. Plenary Meeting, Brussels Congress 1927. Source: Louis Gibarti (Hrsg.), Das Flammenzeichen vom Palais Egmont, Neuer Deutscher Verlag, Berlin (1927)
The Gathering of Visionary Anti-Imperialism. Plenary Meeting, Brussels Congress 1927. Source: Louis Gibarti (Hrsg.), Das Flammenzeichen vom Palais Egmont, Neuer Deutscher Verlag, Berlin (1927)

Fredrik Petersson
Åbo Akademi University
Russian State University for the Humanities (RGGU), Moscow

In 1927, the “First International Congress against Imperialism and Colonialism” convened in Brussels at Palais d’Egmont. The event celebrated the establishment of the League against Imperialism, and as the congress reached its crescendo, Willi Münzenberg, the German communist and General Secretary of International Arbeiterhilfe (IAH), declared that this was “neither the end, nor the beginning of a new powerful movement”.[1] Nearly 28 years later, amid the aftermath of the brutality of the Second World War, Münzenberg’s anti-colonial vision was revitalized at the Afro-Asian conference in Bandung, Indonesia.

In the 1955 Bandung Conference’s opening address, Achmed Sukarno, the Indonesian president, declared to the leaders of the twenty-nine countries in attendance: “I recognise that we are gathered here today as a result of sacrifices. . . . I recall in this connection the Conference of the ‘League against Imperialism and Colonialism’ which was held in Brussels almost thirty years ago.”[2] Separated by many decades and vast distance, these two events illustrate why a global history of transnational anti-colonial movements in the 20th century cannot be fixed around a particular moment in time and space – rather, it is a history enacted in radical spaces in a changing world. Continue reading “Prelude to Bandung: The Interwar Origins of Anti-Colonialism”

Decolonization, Revolution, and the EGO

decolonize

Fabian Klose
Cross-posted from Humanitarianism and Human Rights
Follow on Twitter @FabianMKlose

The age of decolonization is of crucial importance for our understanding of today’s world. By dissolving colonial rule around the world, this process led to the emergence of new sovereign states, thereby permanently changing international relations and international law.

The third phase of decolonization is the one most closely associated with the term “decolonization” today – and which refers to the end of European colonial rule after 1945. The process of the dissolution of the European overseas empires had a profound effect on the course of international history during the 20th century. This process occurred relatively quickly given that colonial rule had existed in some cases for a number of centuries. Only after just 30 years, from 1945 to 1975, all the colonial empires had disappeared from the global map.

Continue reading “Decolonization, Revolution, and the EGO”

The Secret History Behind Today’s Algeria-Germany #WorldCup Match

The Algerian team in 1982
The Algerian team in 1982

Mathilde von Bülow
Lecturer in International and Imperial history, University of Nottingham

Today, Germany’s Mannschaft will face Algeria’s Fennecs at Porto Alegre, after both teams made it through the group stage of the FIFA World Cup. Though it has yet to be played, the match is already being hailed as an historic, even epic, event. Why? Because it represents the first time the Algerian squad has progressed to the final sixteen at a World Cup. Its larger symbolism, however, is rooted in a longstanding Algerian resistance to French colonialism, which underpinned the secret history of Algerian-German football relations. Continue reading “The Secret History Behind Today’s Algeria-Germany #WorldCup Match”

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”

British Foreign Policy in the Shadow of a General Election: The Douglas-Home Government

Andrew Holt
Author of The Foreign Policy of the Douglas-Home Government: Britain, the United States and the End of Empire (2014)

Dr. Holt explores the crucial role of the short-lived Douglas-Home Government (1963-64) upon Cold War relations and British decolonization. With the 2015 general elections fast approaching, the story of Douglas-Home also proffers an illustrative historical example of how an impending poll can affect foreign policy.

Holt DouglasHome

Last month marked the fiftieth anniversary of the creation of the United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP). Established under Security Council Resolution 186 of 4 March 1964, the force was tasked with preventing further violence between Cyprus’s Greek and Turkish communities in the aftermath of 1963’s ‘Bloody Christmas’. Still in place today, UNFICYP has become one of the longest running UN peacekeeping missions, and it owed much to the diplomacy of the British government of Sir Alec Douglas-Home. It is also just one of many episodes highlighting the significance of Douglas-Home’s short-lived and oft-overlooked administration within the larger histories of Cold War relations and British decolonization. Continue reading “British Foreign Policy in the Shadow of a General Election: The Douglas-Home Government”

The Black Hole of Apartheid History

Anti-Apartheid posterJamie Miller
Visiting Assistant Professor, Quinnipiac University

Why historians should study the regime, not just its opponents

Last week’s death of Nelson Mandela prompted outpourings of both admiration and introspection across the globe. Public figures scrambled to portray themselves as long-time supporters of the anti-apartheid cause — even where the historical record of their organisation’s relationship with Mandela undercut the credibility of such posturing (the British Tories readily come to mind). Yet amid the panegyrics, there was plenty of consideration of Mandela’s complex legacy. When Tea Party favourite Ted Cruz declared common cause with Mandela, a supporter wrote on his Facebook page: “Tell the truth Ted!!! Who are you??!! Obama?? Don’t rewrite history to try to get people to like you!!! Educate them!! Mandela was a murderer, terrorist, and a Communist!!!! Can we even trust you to be honest now??!!” A more nuanced analysis appeared in an incisive piece in Foreign Affairs. Historian Ryan Irwin traced Mandela’s elusive legacy to his willingness to embody a pluralist and inclusive vision of the anti-apartheid movement, rather than imposing his own ideological litmus test for would-be allies—be they liberals, pan-Africans, union leaders, or communists.

And yet one thing was conspicuous for its absence over the last week. There has been no effort to describe with any similar specificity what Mandela had defined his life against: the apartheid regime itself. [1] Continue reading “The Black Hole of Apartheid History”