Dockter on Thomas and Toye, ‘Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956’

Authors: Martin Thomas, Richard Toye

Reviewer: Warren Dockter

Martin Thomas, Richard Toye. Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017. 320 pp. $55.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-19-874919-6.Reviewed by Warren Dockter (Aberystwyth University)
Published on H-Diplo (November, 2017)
Commissioned by Seth OffenbachPrintable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=49706“A Silent, Rankling Grudge”

In the autumn issue of Nineteenth Century Review in 1877, W. E. Gladstone wrote an article on legacy of the British Empire and the Eastern Question entitled, “Aggression on Egypt and Freedom in the East.” In addition to supporting notions of self-rule in Egypt, Gladstone warned of the perils of imperial interventions, arguing, “My belief is that the day which witnesses our occupation of Egypt will bid a long farewell to all cordiality of political relations between France and England. There might be no immediate quarrel, no exterior manifestation, but a silent, rankling grudge” (p. 19). These words proved so prophetic that political radical Wilfred Scawen Blunt employed Gladstone’s rhetoric against him in his work The Secret History of the English Occupation of Egypt (1907), writing that “this article is so remarkable and so wonderfully prescient of evils he was himself destined to inflict upon Egypt that it deserves quoting” (p. 57). This exchange serves to illustrate the fluid nature of imperial rhetoric and the discursive relationship which formed between the British and French Empires.

Martin Thomas and Richard Toye have written a remarkably ambitious and excellent study which examines the intersections of imperial rhetoric between the French and British Empires during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The book is based on seven case studies that focus on moments of imperial  intervention in which both the French and Britain played an equal part, ranging from Tunisia and Egypt in the early 1880s through to Suez in 1956. This breadth allows the reader to see the evolution of imperial rhetoric in Britain and France while illustrating how policymakers in their respective metropoles became intrinsically linked, forcing them toward “co-imperialism.” This is particularly true regarding the Middle East and North Africa, where the British and French Empires remained in concert from nineteenth century until the realities of full-scale decolonization became apparent in latter half of the twentieth century. Continue reading “Dockter on Thomas and Toye, ‘Arguing about Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France, 1882-1956’”

Arguing about Empire: The Dreyfus Affair and the Fashoda Crisis, 1898

We are delighted to announce a new online collaboration with our colleagues in the Department of History at the University of Texas at Austin. Not Even Past and the Imperial & Global Forum will be cross-posting articles, sharing podcasts, and sponsoring discussions of historical publications and events. We are launching our joint initiative this month with a blog, cross-posted from Not Even Past, based on a new book by Exeter’s own Martin Thomas and Richard Toye, Arguing About Empire: Imperial Rhetoric in Britain and France.

Martin Thomas and Richard Toye

“At the present moment it is impossible to open a newspaper without finding an account of war, disturbance, the fear of war, diplomatic changes achieved or in prospect, in every quarter of the world,” noted an advertisement in The Times on May 20, 1898. “Under these circumstances it is absolutely essential for anyone who desires to follow the course of events to possess a thoroughly good atlas.” One of the selling points of the atlas in question – that published by The Times itself – was that it would allow its owner to follow “most minute details of the campaign on the Atbara, Fashoda, Uganda, the Italian-Abyssinian conflict &c.” The name Atbara would already have been quite familiar to readers, as the British had recently had a battle triumph there as part of the ongoing reconquest of the Sudan. Continue reading “Arguing about Empire: The Dreyfus Affair and the Fashoda Crisis, 1898”

CFP: Understanding Insurgencies (1920-2000)

AMNESTY TO COUNTER INSURGENCY:

GLOBAL COMPARISONS FROM THE COLONIAL CONTEXT, 1920-2000

Workshop

Global History & Culture Centre, University of Warwick

14-15 June 2018

This workshop is part of a Leverhulme Trust Research Network on Understanding Insurgencies: Resonances from the Colonial Past.  Led by the University of Exeter’s Centre for War, State and Society, other collaborators in this international network are the University of Warwick, University of Oxford, the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) Paris, University of Glasgow, Universite de Québec à Montréal, and KITLV Institute Leiden. The network is funded by the Leverhulme Trust to stage a series of workshops and conferences over a three-year period, (commencing June 2016), and leading to publications.

The theme of this sixth workshop in the Understanding Insurgencies series is ‘Amnesty to Counter Insurgency’. The intention is to examine the manner in which amnesties have been used to bring about temporary cease-fires during counter-insurgency campaigns, to induce surrenders or the ending of hostilities that will bring conflict to an end, or as a means of engaging political discourse in order to generate a negotiated peace. We invite presentations that give detailed consideration to individual case studies during the twentieth century, but would also welcome papers which take a comparative approach and those that look at the principles and pit-falls that lie behind amnesty settlements, including papers that consider the political consequences of amnesties – where these may be contested as well as where they are accepted. Continue reading “CFP: Understanding Insurgencies (1920-2000)”

France and Britain – colonial rivals, or co-imperialists?

Martin Thomas and Richard Toye
University of Exeter

‘The struggle of races and of peoples has from now on the whole globe as its theatre; each advances towards the conquest of unoccupied territories.’ Tempting as it might be to ascribe such inflated rhetoric to Friedrich Nietzsche or Adolf Hitler, its originator was Gabriel Charmes, a disciple of leading late nineteenth-century French republican, Léon Gambetta.

In September 1882, Charmes was trying to persuade his fellow parliamentarians that France’s recent seizure of Tunisia was ethically imperative. Similar rhetoric could be found across the political spectrum, in Britain as well as in France. In 1888, the Conservative Prime Minister Lord Salisbury described small imperial wars as ‘merely the surf that marks the edge of the advancing wave of civilisation’. But if Britain and France both claimed to be the spearhead of civilizing influences, what happened when their interests clashed, and what new arguments emerged to rationalize the struggle for power between rival ‘civilized’ nations?

That is one theme of our new book, Arguing About Empire, but in order to answer the question we need equally to ask what happened when Anglo-French interests appeared to coincide. How did the two countries’ respective elites justify their mutual collaboration in the face of challenges from other powers and, increasingly as time went on, from domestic anti-colonial critics and local nationalist opponents too? Continue reading “France and Britain – colonial rivals, or co-imperialists?”

Call For Papers: Embassies in Crisis

Screen Shot 2016-02-21 at 12.21.01BIHG logoEmbassies in Crisis

British Academy, 9 June 2016

Call for Papers

This one-day conference will combine academic papers with a seminar session at which serving and former Embassy staff will be invited to present their testimonies and perspectives. The intention is to present a summary of the conference findings to the FCO to help inform future thinking in this area. The event will be held at the British Academy, 9 June 2016.

Embassies have long been integral to international diplomacy, their staff instrumental to inter-governmental dialogue, strategic partnerships, trading relationships and cultural exchange. But Embassies are also discrete political spaces. Notionally sovereign territory ‘immune’ from local jurisdiction, in moments of crisis Embassies have often been targets of protest and sites of confrontation. Embassies in Crisis will revisit flashpoints in the lives of Embassies overseas. Approaching Embassies as distinct communities with their own micro-histories, this conference seeks to explore each of these aspects in the lives of Embassies and the people who run them. Papers are welcomed that discuss instances of international confrontation or mass demonstration, past and present, that placed particular Embassies in the global spotlight. Continue reading “Call For Papers: Embassies in Crisis”

Britain, France, and their Roads From Empire: A New Talking Empire Podcast

fight or flight thomasMartin Thomas’s path-breaking book Fight or Flight: Britain, France, and their Roads from Empire tells how the world’s two largest colonial empires disintegrated dramatically after the Second World War. Although shattered by war, in 1945 Britain and France still controlled the world’s two largest colonial empires, with imperial territories stretched over four continents. And they appeared determined to keep them: the roll-call of British and French politicians, soldiers, settlers and writers who promised in word and print at this time to defend their colonial possessions at all costs is a long one. Yet, within twenty years both empires had almost completely disappeared.

The collapse was cataclysmic. Peaceable ‘transfers of power’ were eclipsed by episodes of territorial partition and mass violence whose bitter aftermath still lingers. Hundreds of millions across four continents were caught up in the biggest reconfiguration of the international system ever seen.

In this new Talking Empire podcast Professor Thomas talks about the book with Professor Richard Toye.

Violence and Colonial Order: A New Talking Empire Podcast

thomas violence and colonial order

Richard Toye
History Department, University of Exeter

Follow on Twitter @RichardToye

Professor Martin Thomas’s book Violence and Colonial Order: Police, Workers and Protest in the European Colonial Empires, 1918-1940 is a pioneering, multi-empire account of the relationship between the politics of imperial repression and the economic structures of European colonies between the two World Wars. Ranging across colonial Africa, Southeast Asia and the Caribbean, Thomas explores the structure of local police forces, their involvement in colonial labour control and the containment of uprisings and dissent. This work sheds new light on broader trends in the direction and intent of colonial state repression. It shows that the management of colonial economies, particularly in crisis conditions, took precedence over individual imperial powers’ particular methods of rule in determining the forms and functions of colonial police actions. In this Talking Empire podcast, I interview Professor Thomas about the issues raised by the book.