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”

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 Applications – Beaming the British Empire: the Imperial Wireless Chain, c. 1900-1940: AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award

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AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Exeter and BT Archives

Beaming the British empire: the Imperial Wireless Chain, circa 1900-1940

Ref: 2583

About the award

Applications are invited for an AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award with the University of Exeter and BT Archives to research and study the origins, development and impact of the Imperial Wireless Chain, the global network of shortwave radio stations that reputedly played a critical role in British colonial integrity from the 1920s to the 1940s.

This project focuses on one of the most extraordinary milestones in the history of global telecommunications and represents an exciting opportunity for students with backgrounds in the history of science, technology, and modern British and imperial history.  First conceived by Guglielmo Marconi in 1906 to use long-wave transmitters, the Imperial Wireless Chain (IWC) was postponed following a political scandal and the outbreak of the First World War.    In the early 1920s, and at some financial risk, the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company developed its innovative ‘beam’ short-wave system and this was eventually adopted by the British government for the IWC.  The first pair of ‘beam’ stations opened in Britain and Canada in 1927 and within a few years similar stations followed in Australia, India, New Zealand, South Africa and South America.  It soon became one of the most widely used forms of long distance communication in the British empire and posed such a threat to the ageing submarine cable business that had constituted the ‘nervous system’ of the British empire that the British government was eventually forced to amalgamate the newer and older forms of telegraphy into one of the largest telecommunication firms of the 1930s: Cable and Wireless.  Despite its importance, the history of the Imperial Wireless Chain has not been the subjects of systematic scholarly study.

Continue reading “Call for Applications – Beaming the British Empire: the Imperial Wireless Chain, c. 1900-1940: AHRC-funded Collaborative Doctoral Award”

We’re Hiring! Lecturer in Global and Imperial History

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The University of Exeter is a Russell Group university that combines world-class research with very high levels of student satisfaction. Exeter has over 21,000 students from more than 130 different countries and is in the top 1% of universities in the world with 98% of its research rated as being of international quality. Our research focuses on some of the most fundamental issues facing humankind today.

The post of Lecturer in Global and Imperial History will contribute to extending the research profile of History at Exeter, particularly in areas related or complementary to the transnational history of imperialism, globalization, and decolonization since 1750. This full time post is available from 1st September 2017 to 31st August 2020 in the College Humanities on a fixed term basis. Continue reading “We’re Hiring! Lecturer in Global and Imperial History”

Sixty Years after Suez

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Richard Toye
Director, Centre for Imperial & Global History

Cross-posted from Politics Home

On 29 October 1956, Israeli forces launched an attack on Egypt. The following day Britain and France quickly issued an ultimatum to both sides to stop fighting. There was no compliance and, on 5 November, Anglo-French forces invaded Egypt in order to ‘separate the combatants’. The operation was a military success – and a catastrophic political failure.

For Britain and France’s actions had been based on a lie, and a pretty see-through one at that. The real motivation was to overthrow Egypt’s President Nasser, who just over three months earlier had nationalised the Suez Canal Company. In Paris and London, this was seen as a threat to Western Europe’s oil supply and to international order more generally. Initial efforts to get Nasser to ‘disgorge’ what he had seized, via diplomacy backed by coded threats, were unsuccessful.

Dwight Eisenhower, running for re-election to the White House on a platform of peace and prosperity, was not willing to back the use of force, and his Secretary of State, John Foster Dulles, was similarly cautious. Both men might have been willing to turn a blind eye to a spot of old-fashioned colonial atavism if the British and French had simply got on with it and launched an attack. Yet British Prime Minister Anthony Eden had a reputation to protect as an internationalist and a man of peace. To the frustration of his French allies, there was delay after delay as he looked for a pretext for action that would both allow him to destroy Nasser and to satisfy world opinion. Continue reading “Sixty Years after Suez”

Lenin’s Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism – A New Talking Empire Podcast

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V. I. Lenin penned and published his influential pamphlet, Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, in the midst of the First World War. Building upon Marxist contemporaries like Hilferding and Bukharin as well as non-Marxist theorists like J. A. Hobson, Lenin’s pamphlet would quickly come to embody the orthodox Marxist critique concerning the relationship between modern capitalism and imperialism. In this Talking Empire podcast, Dr Marc-William Palen discusses Lenin’s Imperialism and its legacy with Professor Richard Toye.

J. A. Hobson and Imperialism – A New Talking Empire Podcast

john_atkinson_hobson (1)In 1902, journalist John A. Hobson published Imperialism: A Study. The book was among the first to connect the  rise of finance capital with the growth of imperial expansion after 1870. Hobson’s theory would fast number among the most influential critiques of imperialism. Although Hobson himself was not a Marxist (he was a classical liberal), his theory would play a key role in shaping subsequent Marxist theories of imperialism, most notably that of V. I. Lenin.

In this Talking Empire podcast, Centre Director Richard Toye discusses Hobson’s Imperialism with Dr. Marc-William Palen.