In the newest in CIGH’s ‘Talking Empire‘ series, Professor Richard Toye interviews Dr. Henry Knight Lozano about his book California and Hawai’i Bound: U.S. Settler Colonialism and the Pacific West, 1848-1959, published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2021.
Professor Richard Toye (@RichardToye) of the Centre for Imperial and Global History interviews Professor Jürgen Zimmerer (@juergenzimmerer) of the University of Hamburg on the theme of contested German colonial history.
RT: You recently gave a fascinating interview on the theme of repressed/suppressed memories of German colonialism. One point you made is that because Germany had had its colonies taken away after World War I, it did not go through the same post-1945 decolonization process as other European countries; rather at that point it had to deal with the legacy of the Nazi era. But in spite of that – looking at the reactions to your interview on Twitter – it seems that in terms of current debates the UK and Germany, at least, have certain things in common. When you draw attention to German colonial crimes, some Germans say, in effect, “But why do you insist on dragging this up? After all, other empires were much worse than ours.” Something similar happens in Britain – usually people suggest that the French or the Belgians were worse than we were. Why do you think this “whataboutery” or “whataboutism” is so prevalent?
JZ: Your observation is correct. My references to the first decades after World War II were meant to explain why what I call “colonial amnesia” could take place. By that I mean the marginalisation or nostalgic idealization of German colonialism in public perception. For the post-war generation the “colonial” question was a British or French one, etc. not a German one. On the one hand, Germany had “lost” its formal colonies already in 1919 and, on the other hand, after 1945 the memory of World War II and the Third Reich took centre stage. Interestingly, what was discussed was neither the Holocaust, which became a matter of broad debate only in the 1980s, nor the German war crimes in the war of annihilation, which led to huge debates in the 1990s, but rather German suffering from the war and German resistance to Hitler.
Already at that time you could find references to the colonial crimes of others, particularly of the victorious powers, what you so poignantly called whataboutery. It was meant to deflect from German guilt and was used as an argument that the enforced De-Nazification was unjust, and that only Germans were being forced to undergo such a humiliating experience. Later on the argument was slightly modified. Now it read: We take responsibility for the Holocaust, and this is enough. We don’t engage with colonialism, like the German genocide of the Herero and Nama people, because we already deal with the Holocaust, and now the others should deal with colonialism first. Now Germany was the role model of coming to terms with the past, attempting to gain the moral high ground.
RT: This is very interesting. In the UK, perhaps it is the other way round. “We stood alone against Hitler in 1940; this is our trump card against all criticism.” However, there is some acknowledgement that some aspects of the British Empire were at least mildly problematic. People argue, however, that taking everything in the round these aspects were eclipsed by benefits, most usually the railways … In Germany, do people try to do the same thing, in other words to claim that although there were some downsides, the German Empire was beneficial to the colonised?Continue reading “German Colonialism, Suppressed Memories: A CIGH Interview with Jürgen Zimmerer”
“The People in Times of Crisis: Past and Present: Book Launch event for The Munich Crisis, Politics and the People”
About this Event
Convened by Prof. Julie Gottlieb (University of Sheffield), Prof. Daniel Hucker (University of Nottingham) and Prof. Richard Toye (Exeter University), and chaired by Prof. Gaynor Johnson (University of Kent)
Please join us for this event when we will launch our new collaborative book The Munich Crisis, Politics and the People. The authors came together for a conference in 2018, the 80th anniversary of the signing of the highly controversial but pivotal Munich Agreement, a diplomatic event that was all-absorbing for people throughout Europe and beyond. The days, weeks, and months when the world was on the brink of another global conflict war were days of acute crisis, uncertainty, anxiety, and private and public suspense and nervousness. At this event we will come together to reflect on the Munich Crisis in light of the current global crisis, hearing unmistakable resonances, drawing some parallels, as well as thinking about how the ‘People’s Crisis’ of 1938 differed in important ways from the all-consuming global pandemic today.
This event will be chaired by Prof. Gaynor Johnson, with short presentations by the editors, and Q&A with the contributors.
Date And Time
Thu, 11 March 2021
17:00 – 18:30 GMT
Click here to register
Cross-posted from History Matters
On 23 February 1945 Churchill invited all ministers outside the War Cabinet to his room at the House of Commons to hear his account of the Yalta conference and the one at Malta that had preceded it. The Labour minister Hugh Dalton recorded in his diary that “The PM spoke very warmly of Stalin. He was sure […] that as long as Stalin lasted, Anglo-Russian friendship could be maintained.” Churchill added: “Poor Neville Chamberlain believed he could trust with Hitler. He was wrong. But I don’t think I’m wrong about Stalin.”
Just five days later, however, Churchill’s trusted private secretary John Colville noted the arrival of:
“sinister telegrams from Roumania showing that the Russians are intimidating the King and Government […] with all the techniques familiar to students of the Comintern. […] When the PM came back [from dining at Buckingham Palace] […] he said he feared he could do nothing. Russia had let us go our way in Greece; she would insist on imposing her will in Roumania and Bulgaria. But as regards Poland we would have our say. As we went to bed, after 2.00 a.m. the PM said to me, ‘I have not the slightest intention of being cheated over Poland, not even if we go to the verge of war with Russia.”
At an initial glance, there seems to be a powerful contradiction between these different sets of remarks. In the first, Churchill appears remarkably naïve and foolish, putting his faith in his personal relationship with a man whom he knew to be a mass murderer. In the second he seems strikingly, even recklessly bellicose, contemplating a new war with the Soviets, his present allies, even before the Germans and the Japanese had been defeated.
Surprising though it may seem, the disjuncture is not as large as it appears on the surface. Relations with the USSR and the future of Poland were not the only things that were at stake at Yalta. The Big Three took important decisions regarding the proposed United Nations Organization, and the post-war treatment of Germany, and even Anglo-US relations were not uncomplicated. In this post, however, I want to focus on the Polish issue and the broader question of how Churchill viewed the Soviet Union and its place in international relations more generally. I will outline three key assumptions that governed Churchill’s approach and which explain the apparent discrepancies in his remarks upon his return. Continue reading “‘I Don’t Think I’m Wrong About Stalin’: Churchill’s Strategic And Diplomatic Assumptions At Yalta”
Nandini Chatterjee (NC): Is there a necessary connection between trying to make the university an inclusive place, and decolonising the curriculum?
Richard Toye (RT): Yes, I think there is, but at the same time they are not one and the same thing. That is to say, you could, in theory, have a wonderful, fully decolonised curriculum and at the same time fail to eradicate the various forms of discrimination that staff and students face. On the other hand, you could perhaps do a fair bit to removing those inequalities without having succeeded in adjusting the curriculum. But I do think that the two things go hand in hand, insofar as the messages that we give in the classroom are obviously a very important part of the university experience. If we set the right tone there, both in terms of inclusiveness and intellectual content, that really ought to have some wider benefit. I think there is a dilemma, though. Some people may well have an interest in a particular type of history because of their own ethnic and family history, and why not? But I think that we have to be careful not to assume that because somebody comes from a particular background they will be interested in a particular type or part of history and that ‘inclusiveness’ is achieved by laying on that variety of history. Black people may be especially interested in black history, for all sorts of good reasons, but nobody should expect them to be, or assume that they will be uninterested in other kinds of history. We wouldn’t expect white people only to be interested in white history, in fact I think we would look upon that as positively dangerous. What is your view? Continue reading “Decolonising the curriculum: A conversation”
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”
Centre Director Richard Toye interviews Dr. Ljubica Spaskovska (University of Exeter) about the 1963 Skopje earthquake and its international significance (8 November 2018).
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:
On 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”
Professor Richard Toye interviews Professor James Vernon at the North American Conference on British Studies, Providence, RI, 27 October 2018.
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.
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.
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.
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 Prof. Astrid Rasch (NTNU) about the conference and the ‘Embers of Empire’ project.
Centre Director Richard Toye recently discussed how Churchill has been utilized within the Brexit debate, and Churchill’s relationship with Europe – you can listen through the links below.
Cross-posted from France in the UK
A special Franco-British conversation about leading figures of our shared history.
Historians Richard Toye and Christian Destremau examine Winston Churchill’s relationship to France and Europe, and the different narratives that have been built since.
As part of The Fabric of Citizenship seminar series.
You can now listen to this special evening thanks to Culturethèque.
David Thackeray, Richard Toye, and Andrew Thompson
University of Exeter
This book considers how Britain has imagined its economic role in the wider world and how British ideas have influenced global debates about market relationships between the start of the nineteenth century and the UK’s first European referendum. In doing so, the authors explore the interplay between the high political thought of theorists, the activities of officials and businesspeople, and the everyday experience of the wider public. Across the contributions to this book there is a consideration of the competing factors which affected market decisions and the processes of ‘economic imagination’.
The economist Joseph Schumpeter put the concept of imagination at the heart of the entrepreneurial process. It was this quality which, above all, businesspeople required if they were to succeed: ‘the capacity of seeing things in a way which proves afterwards to be true, even though it cannot be established [as such] at the time’. He saw that economies are, in a sense, imaginative constructs – making calculations about and placing faith in the future and its possibilities are key qualities of investors and entrepreneurs.
Schumpeter’s work on the entrepreneurial imagination was an important influence in the development of Ronald Robinson and John Gallagher’s concept of the ‘official mind’, which they saw as the key driving force behind British imperial expansion in the nineteenth century. As they noted in Africa and the Victorians, London policy-makers ‘were usually dealing with countries they had never seen, with questions apprehended intellectually from reports and recommendations on paper….it was the idea and analysis of African situations in Whitehall, and not the realities in Africa as such which moved Victorian statesmen to act or not to act’.
The question of how changing levels of information available to economic actors has affected the role of imagination in decision making in the modern world is an important one. As international business scholars have acknowledged, economic imagination is ultimately shaped by the interpretation of past experience, access to information about markets (which can sometimes be faulty), and hopes placed in the future. Perceptions of distance between markets are ultimately culturally constructed. The ‘physic distance’ between markets perceived by businesspeople, policy makers, and consumers may not correspond to actual measurable differences in institutions, preferences, and values as economic actors may exaggerate or underestimate the cultural distance between two countries involved in a transaction.
The 2016 EU referendum provides a good example of how public debates about an imagined economic future can radically reshape public policy. Continue reading “Imagining Britain’s economic future, c.1800-1975”