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Posts Tagged ‘British Empire’

Imperial and World History seminar
15 October 2012
Tom Bentley (University of Sussex)
Reshaping the past: the lingering colonial present

This podcast is about 20 minutes long.

Gravestones after Herero Genocide

Violence is a driving force of colonialism, but it is not the only narrative available.  There is another that glosses Empire still in its contemporary terms: adventure, chivalry, civilising, and the saving of heathen souls.  That narrative, whilst more subdued than in the past, still exists.  You only need to look as far as the London Olympics Opening Ceremony to see a glimpse of that.

Tom Bentley’s paper looks at the present day view of the colonial past through four examples of apologies made by western leaders.

1)      Germany to the Herero (Namibia) for genocide – 2004

2)      Belgium for their complicity in the assassination of the then Republic of Congo’s leader – 2002

3)      Italy to Libya regarding colonisation – 2008

4)      Britain to Northern Ireland for Bloody Sunday – 2010

Bentley examines the language used in these apologies and asks why they are being made and for whom.  For example leaders often use apologies for their own agenda; cultivating an image of themselves as distant from previous governments and from those who had caused the act in the first place.  They talk to their own people, more than those whom they are making the apology.  The apology also seems to attempt a circumvention of plans to seek reparations by distancing their government from those who had caused the atrocity in the first place.

Secondly, Bentley looks at the familiar narratives in the apology.  The words sanitise the past and offer only an apology for one particular event.  These apologises are not, for example, for the entire colonisation programme, but for one blip where things went wrong.  The apology also serves the present, asking something of those they are apologising to and often seeking a gain for themselves.

Finally, the apology seeks to stamp on the event a conclusive official account of the event.  The apologiser is authorising a particular history of an event and making it official.

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Hello all.  Just a brief abstract today from the Franco-British history seminar.  For the last few weeks updates to the blog and History SPOT has been a little on and off due to a busy couple of weeks here at the IHR and due to the fact that we had finally caught up (more or less) with our podcast backlog.  However, last week saw the starting up again of our seminars after the Easter break so keep an eye out for brand new podcasts appearing on History SPOT including last week’s live streamed Digital History seminar!  More soon!
 
Franco-British History seminar
Churchill’s Empire: The world that made him and the world he made
Richard Toye (University of Exeter)
1 December 2011
 
 
Abstract: ‘I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.’ These notorious words, spoken by Churchill in 1942, encapsulate his image as an imperial die-hard, implacably opposed to colonial freedom – a reputation that has prevailed, and which Churchill willingly embraced to further his policies. Yet, as a youthful minister at the Colonial Office before World War I, his political opponents had seen him as a Little Englander and a danger to the Empire. Placing Churchill in the context of his times and his contemporaries, this paper evaluates his position on key Imperial questions and examines what was conventional about Churchill’s opinions and what was unique. 

To listen to this podcast click here.

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Today we have two abstracts from the Franco-British History seminar held at the Sorbonne, France.  Both sessions look at Empire, in particular the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  However, there the similarities end.  The first paper (held in April last year) looks at cartography, and in particular examines the development of Imperial maps and their role in imagining the British Empire.  The second paper (held in December) examines the views expressed by Sir Winston Churchill on the subject of imperial Britain providing a much more politically-centric view of the Empire in its dying days.


Franco-British History
7 April 2011
Isabelle Avilla (Paris 4)
Cartes du monde britannique, 1885-1914
Translation: British World Maps 1885-1914

What can we tell about British national identity through a study of maps of empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s?  At a time of growing doubts about the supremacy of Britain in the world; doubts related to both the context of economic depression and international rivalries, as well as events such as the Boer war and the death of Queen Victoria, how were the British depicted on world maps?  Geography and cartography were one way for Britain to retain its hegemonic position in the world.  This new way of thinking about geography and cartography was considered by many geographers as essential to the education of citizens that they lived not on an island but in an empire.  Those British citizens who learnt how to read maps could feel proud to belong to the British nation and enable some to forget their fear that Britain was in decline.

Note: This paper was presented in French

 

Franco-British History
1 December 2011
Richard Toye (University of Exeter), autour de son livre Churchill’s Empire. The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010)

‘I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.’ These notorious words, spoken by Churchill in 1942, encapsulate his image as an imperial die-hard, implacably opposed to colonial freedom – a reputation that has prevailed, and which Churchill willingly embraced to further his policies. Yet, as a youthful minister at the Colonial Office before World War I, his political opponents had seen him as a Little Englander and a danger to the Empire. Placing Churchill in the context of his times and his contemporaries, this paper evaluates his position on key Imperial questions and examines what was conventional about Churchill’s opinions and what was unique.

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