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Journal ArticleDOI

THe Fear of Falling: British Politics and Imperial Decline Since 1900

01 Dec 1986-Transactions of the Royal Historical Society (Cambridge University Press)-Vol. 36, pp 27-43
TL;DR: The search for historical laws of civilisation and decay was a characteristically Victorian intellectual preoccupation and an essential part of the way in which Europeans tried to make sense of the other civilisations into which they crashed during the nineteenth century.
Abstract: TO an outsider historians must sometimes seem perversely obsessed with decline. Certainly when it comes to dealing with empires, his-torians betray a fascination with decay that is almost pathological—and often not simply with the nature and causes of decline but with the exact moment when it began—a somewhat futile enterprise if an enjoyable parlour game. Of course the appeal of decay to the his-torical imagination is not simply the outgrowth of contemporary nostalgia for lost worlds and past times. In the later nineteenth and earlier twentieth centuries the intellectual habit of ‘historical-mindedness’ and the particular tendency to search for a pattern of origins, growth, maturity, decline and fall were extremely influential over a wide range of intellectual disciplines and we might suppose helped to shape the world-view of those who managed the external affairs of Britain and the other powers. The search for historical laws of civilisation and decay was a characteristically Victorian intellectual preoccupation and an essential part of the way in which Europeans tried to make sense of the other civilisations into which they crashed during the nineteenth century. But how far were the leaders of the European imperial states and the circles of informed opinion in which they moved willing to turn on their own empires the analysis of growth and decay they had fashioned for the states and cultures they had overthrown? To what extent should we see the makers of British policy in the first half of this century as (in Gibbon's famous phrase) ‘musing in the ruins of the Capitol’? Was the Marquess of Lothian's remark that ‘sooner or later empires decay partly because they become rigid and rotten at the centre…’ a recognition that if history was the graveyard of empires, British imperialism had certainly reached retiring age? Or did Lothian and others like him assume that Britain's peculiarities made her exempt from such generalizations?
Citations
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Book
15 Apr 2004
TL;DR: The authors examines the forces that have contributed to a sense of Britishness, and considers how Britishness has been mediated by other identities such as class, gender, region, ethnicity and the sense of belonging to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland.
Abstract: What does it mean to be British? It is now recognized that being British is not innate, static or permanent, but that national identities within Britain are constantly constructed and reconstructed Britishness since 1870 examines this definition and redefinition of the British national identity since the 1870s Paul Ward argues that British national identity is a resilient force, and looks at how Britishness has adapted to changing circumstances Taking a thematic approach, Britishness since 1870 examines the forces that have contributed to a sense of Britishness, and considers how Britishness has been mediated by other identities such as class, gender, region, ethnicity and the sense of belonging to England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland

119 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: Assessments of early postwar understandings of the power and potential of the Commonwealth have suggested the body either failed to shield the British public from a sense of national decline or tha...
Abstract: Assessments of early postwar understandings of the power and potential of the Commonwealth have suggested the body either failed to shield the British public from a sense of national decline or tha...

41 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: In this article, the authors highlight the need to grasp the specificities of institutions arising from decolonization and to take this period seriously as one that was experienced, at least by political elites, as one of dramatic change, characterized by exciting opportunities as well as uncertainty and frustration.
Abstract: Research in postcolonial geography has overlooked the period, practices and spaces of political decolonization in favour of studies of high imperialism and ongoing contemporary colonialism. Here, I suggest geographers should look more carefully at the mid-twentieth century era during which people, institutions and states negotiated, performed and experienced becoming postcolonial. I make this case by focusing on the modern Commonwealth which emerged from the end of the British Empire, and specifically, on two Commonwealth Heads of Government Meetings in the 1970s. At this time the Commonwealth was an important site for rehearsing anticolonial, anti-British and postcolonial political identities, for contesting British policies in Southern Africa and intervening in ongoing decolonization. The paper makes three broader contributions. First, it highlights the need to grasp the specificities of institutions arising from decolonization, and to take this period seriously as one that was experienced, at least by political elites, as one of dramatic change, characterized by exciting opportunities as well as uncertainty and frustration. Second, it broadens conceptualizations of geopolitical space and action by drawing attention to international conferences as geopolitical events through which political positions and identities were staged and performed. Third, it contributes to (and complicates) notions of the subaltern within postcolonial geopolitics.

36 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
01 Mar 2014-Geoforum
TL;DR: In this paper, the authors focus on the welcome given to Commonwealth dignitaries in London, UK in the 1950s and 1960s, and at an intergovernmental conference in Lusaka, Zambia, in 1979, in order to highlight the centrality of hospitality to post-colonial international diplomacy.

27 citations

References
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Book
Carl Becker1
01 Jan 1932
TL;DR: The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers as mentioned in this paper is one of the most distinctive American contributions to the historical literature on the Enlightenment, and it is a classic.
Abstract: Here a distinguished American historian challenges the belief that the eighteenth century was essentially modern in its temper. In crystalline prose Carl Becker demonstrates that the period commonly described as the Age of Reason was, in fact, very far from that; that Voltaire, Hume, Diderot, and Locke were living in a medieval world, and that these philosophers "demolished the Heavenly City of St. Augustine only to rebuild it with more up-to-date materials." In a new foreword, Johnson Kent Wright looks at the book's continuing relevance within the context of current discussion about the Enlightenment. "Will remain a classic-a beautifully finished literary product."-Charles A. Beard, American Historical Review "The Heavenly City of the Eighteenth-Century Philosophers remains one of the most distinctive American contributions to the historical literature on the Enlightenment. . . . [It] is likely to beguile and provoke readers for a long time to come."-Johnson Kent Wright, from the foreword

294 citations

Book
01 Jan 1966

105 citations

Journal ArticleDOI
TL;DR: The inter-war years are a nomansland in the history of British decolonization as discussed by the authors, where statesmen spoke the language of trusts and mandates, genuflected before the image of self-determination and claimed that self-government was the ultimate purpose of colonial rule.
Abstract: The inter-war years are a nomansland in the history of British decolonization. Conventional as it is to see the first World War as a great watershed in British imperial history, separating the era of strength and success from the age of decline and dissolution, it remains difficult to show conclusively that the disintegration of the imperial system had become inevitable before the second World War. Yet historians have felt instinctively that after 1918 much of the crude self-confidence had drained out of British imperialism. The age when Curzon could proclaim heroically that ‘efficiency of administration is in my view a synonym for the contentment of the governed’; when Cromer could lecture the khedive of Egypt like a schoolboy; or when Milner could set out to demolish everything that preserved a separate identity to the Afrikaners, appears in striking contrast to the post-war era when statesmen spoke the language of trusts and mandates, genuflected before the image of self-determination and claimed that self-government was the ultimate purpose of colonial rule. But for all the piety of its new principles, post-war imperial policy seemed strangely reluctant to liberate Britain's dependencies or hold out firm promises of independence; and the imperial government periodically repressed its recalcitrant subjects with a vigour and efficiency that would have impressed Lord Kitchener.

74 citations

Book
01 Jan 1979

29 citations

01 Jan 1924

10 citations