Review – Reading the Postwar Future: Textual Turning Points from 1944

Reading the Postwar Future: Textual Turning Points from 1944
Edited by Kirrily Freeman and John Munro.
Bloomsbury Academic, 2020

Reviewed by Richard Toye (University of Exeter)

Cross-posted from E-International Relations

The editors of this volume note its origins “as a cross-corridor conversation along the lines of ‘Have you ever noticed how many influential books were written in 1944?’” (p.x). This conversation gave rise to a project of intellectual history exploring how key texts from this pivotal year reflected on, and helped shape, a different world order. The twelve chapters are not in fact confined to books; there are treatments, for example, of a Kurosawa film (by Chikako Nagayama), of the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration (by Suzanne Langlois), of the 1944 Democratic Party programme (by Katherine Rye Jewell), and of a Mao Zedong speech made in tribute to a fallen comrade (by Rebecca E. Karl). The Mao speech became “one of the three ‘constantly read articles’ of socialist education campaigns” (p.216). As the editors acknowledge, there are several other texts which might have been included, such as Sartre’s Huis Clos. However, they are to be commended on a judicious selection and on their choice of a novel frame through which to examine a significant historical moment.

F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom actually receives two different treatments. Radhika Desai compares it to Karl Polanyi’s The Great Transformation which, she argues, has been unjustly neglected. In her analysis, Hayek provided a thin, ahistorical account which attributed the interwar movement towards economic planning to the intellectual failures of “socialists” (who in his view could be found in every party). She argues convincingly that Polanyi’s book “goes for the jugular of the Austrian/Hayekian argument against planning and otherwise interfering in the allegedly spontaneous or natural market mechanism” (p.34). Polanyi rejected the idea that laissez-faire had emerged naturally and that subsequent legislation that departed from it was the consequence of deliberate action by opponents of the tenets of economic liberalism. In fact, he said, laissez-faire was itself the product of purposeful government action, whereas the subsequent limitations placed upon it arose spontaneously because of the threat that free markets posed to key aspects of society. Polanyi, Desai notes, ended up being marginalised in his career, whereas Hayek took laurels which, as far as she is concerned, were wholly undeserved. Continue reading “Review – Reading the Postwar Future: Textual Turning Points from 1944”

The 1963 Skopje earthquake and its international significance: an interview with Ljubica Spaskovska

Centre Director Richard Toye interviews Dr. Ljubica Spaskovska (University of Exeter) about the 1963 Skopje earthquake and its international significance (8 November 2018).

The Unnecessary Book

“To Winston, with affectionate birthday greetings from his old castigator” by David Low, 1954

Centre Director Richard Toye has reviewed Andrew Roberts’s new book Churchill: Walking with Destiny in the newest Times Literary Supplement. Here is a sneak preview:

churchillOn April 9, 1994, the cover of the Spectator boasted a colourful cartoon that depicted Winston Churchill sticking up two fingers to a boatload of Caribbean migrants – “the Windrush generation”, as we would now call them. Inside was an article by Andrew Roberts (who had previously made a name for himself as a biographer of Lord Halifax) which labelled Churchill as an ideological racist. “For all his public pronouncements on ‘The Brotherhood of Man’ he was an unrepentant white – not to say Anglo-Saxon – supremacist”, Roberts wrote. Moreover, “for Churchill, negroes were ‘niggers’ or ‘blackamoors’, Arabs were ‘worthless’, Chinese were ‘chinks’ or ‘pigtails’, and other black races were ‘baboons’ or ‘Hottentots’.”

Roberts’s claims, which were soon to be published at greater length in his book Eminent Churchillians, provoked a storm of criticism. The historian Niall Ferguson wrote that ‘my friend Andrew Roberts has joined the growing ranks of Churchill-bashers’. Bill Deedes, who had served as a junior minister in Churchill’s final government, lamented in the Daily Telegraph that ‘We live in times when greatness draws critics and genius attracts iconoclasts – and iconoclasm sells books.’ Lady Williams, a former personal secretary to Churchill, told biographer William Manchester that Roberts’s ‘scurrilous allegations’ were symptomatic of a form of history that involved ‘shooting down great historic figures’. Continue reading “The Unnecessary Book”

James Fallon, the Improbable Irish Winemaker: an interview with Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre

Centre Director Professor Richard Toye interviews Professor Jennifer Regan-Lefebvre (Trinity College, Connecticut) about her research on imperial wine making, at the North American Conference on British Studies, Providence RI, 27 October 2018.

Interview with Dr. Olivette Otele – ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire’ Conference

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.

Interview with Fintan O’Toole – ‘Bordering on Brexit: Global Britain and the Embers of Empire’ Conference

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 Fintan O’Toole (Irish Times) about his conference keynote.