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.
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.
Martin 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.
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.
Frantz Fanon (1925-1961) was a psychiatrist, intellectual and revolutionary. Born in the French Caribbean colony of Martinique, Fanon spent significant periods of his life in France and, crucially, Algeria. There he became an active member of the Front de Libération Nationale that fought, with ultimate success, against French rule. His most famous work The Wretched of the Earth, published shortly before his death from leukaemia, is a classic of decolonization literature. As Jean-Paul Sartre put it in his preface: Continue reading “What’s So Shocking about the Wretched of the Earth?”
William Appleman Williams is considered the founder of the “strongly influential” Wisconsin School of U.S. foreign relations imperial history that took root from within the History Department at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Williams’s book The Tragedy of American Diplomacy, first published in 1959, was the first of many revisionist imperial histories of American foreign policy that appeared amid what would become the broader radical New Left movement. Continue reading “The Tragedy of American Diplomacy and US Imperialism”
Within the field of imperial history, Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations (1776) is commonly associated with the anti-imperial economic doctrine that arose in the mid nineteenth century alongside the rise of Free Trade England. This ideology drew inspiration from Smith’s condemnation of the British Empire for being unnecessarily mercantilistic, expensive, and atavistic. Smith’s critique of imperialism came to be known as “Cobdenism”, named after Victorian free trade apostle Richard Cobden, the anti-imperial radical who led the overthrow of England’s protectionist Corn Laws in 1846.
But the longer imperial legacy of the Wealth of Nations is much more . . . complicated. Smith’s work was transformed into an amorphous text regarding the imperial question throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. Adam Smith had left behind an ambiguous legacy on the subject of empire: a legacy that left long-term effects upon subsequent British imperial debates.
In 2004, Bernard Porter published The Absent-Minded Imperialists: Empire, Society and Culture in Britain. It immediately became a controversial work. Porter later reflected that the book:
was mainly a response to certain scholars (and some others) who, I felt, had hitherto simplified and exaggerated the impact of ‘imperialism’ on Britain in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, after years in which, except by empire specialists like myself, it had been rather ignored and underplayed. […] the main argument of the book was this: that the ordinary Briton’s relationship to the Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was complex and ambivalent, less soaked in or affected by imperialism than these other scholars claimed – to the extent that many English people, at any rate, possibly even a majority, were almost entirely ignorant of it for most of the nineteenth century. Continue reading “A Decade of ‘Imperial Absent-Mindedness’: A New Talking Empire Podcast”
Edward Said (1935-2003) was one of the foremost intellectuals of the Twentieth Century. Heavily influenced by the French philosopher Michel Foucault, his work spanned the fields of literature, history, and post-colonial studies. He was a controversial figure, and none of his work is more debated than his landmark 1978 book Orientalism. Said recast this term so that it referred to the structures of knowledge – or rather discourse – through which Westerners constructed the image of the East. Continue reading “Orientalism and its Legacies: New Talking Empire Podcasts”
The Centre for Imperial and Global History is pleased to announce its new ‘Talking Empire’ podcast series. Hosted by Professor Richard Toye, Centre academics are developing a series of podcasts on controversies in global and imperial history, which are available to listen to for free on this page.
With this first installment, Centre Director Andrew Thompson discusses the longstanding debates surrounding the work of Jack Gallagher and Ronald Robinson. In their path-breaking 1953 Economic History Review article, ‘The Imperialism of Free Trade’, Gallagher and Robinson suggested that the so-called ‘New Imperialism’ of the late nineteenth century was not new at all. They argued instead that imperial historians had previously missed Britain’s informal imperial expansion following its adoption of free trade policies c. 1850. The authors expanded further upon their informal imperial findings with Africa and the Victorians: The Official Mind of Imperialism (1961).
Listen to the three installments of Andrew Thompson discussing the controversial legacy of Gallagher and Robinson: Continue reading “Talking Empire: The Gallagher-Robinson Controversy”