At the very end of this academic year, we will have a summer-term round table on national identities and statehood in Eastern Europe, with two highly original research papers by Dr Tomas Balkelis (Vilnius) and Dr Frank Grelka (Frankfurt/Oder) and a commentary by Prof Peter Gatrell (Manchester). Both case studies presented have a lot to say about a much larger region and the various factors shaping national identities and independent statehood, the long-term effects of which have become visible again with the recent events in Ukraine. Plus – the decisive role of the Great War for the development of nationalism will be highlighted, which should really be a reason for everyone to come.

The round table is preceded by a reception at 3.30 pm in Danford Room. Presentations will begin at 4 pm, followed by discussion. Please register with Klaus Richter (!

Poster_summer term round table_29 July 2014



Next Monday we’ll be co-hosting a talk with the China Institute by Tong Lam, a historian and visual artist, and author of A Passion for Facts: Social Surveys and the Construction of the Chinese Nation State (University of California, 2011). Tong Lam will be speaking on “Ruinscape and Slumscape: Picturing History and Violence in Global East Asia”.  The talk will take place at 2:30pm on Monday May 12th in the Hospitality Suite (top floor) of Muirhead Tower.  All are welcome.


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This week, for our final seminar of the term, we’re delighted to welcome Anne-Isabelle Richard from Leiden University, who will be giving a paper on ‘The Limits of Solidarity: Europeanism, Anti-Colonialism and Socialism at the Congress of the Peoples of Europe, Asia and Africa in Puteaux, 1948′.  Please join us at 4:15pm on Wednesday, March 26th, in the Rodney Hilton Library, on the 3rd floor of the Arts Building.  As usual, all are welcome, and there will be drinks.

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This week we’ll hear from our own Christopher Hill, who will be giving a paper titled ‘Ban Polaris and Scrap the Force de Frappe: Nationalism and Internationalism in the British Movement Against Nuclear Weapons’, Wednesday 19 March, beginning at 4:15pm in the Rodney Hilton Library, Arts Building, 3rd floor.  All are welcome, and there will be drinks.

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This week we’ll be hosting a joint talk with the Department of African Studies and Anthropology. Rebekka Habermas (Gottingen/Oxford) will be speaking on “Economy and Colonial History: German Togo and the Cotton Project”, Wednesday 5 March, beginning at 5pm in the Danford Room, Arts Building, 2nd floor.  All are welcome, and there will be drinks.


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On Wednesday, February 26, Frank Uekotter, one of our Birmingham Fellows working on global environmental issues, will be giving a paper titled ‘Matter Matters: Outlines of a Historiographic Provocation’. All are welcome, and there will be drinks.


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Stuart Hall

Stuart Hall passed away yesterday.  Matthew Hilton and Kieran Connell have written a thoughtful obituary about Hall and his contribution to Birmingham, particularly in shaping the Centre for Cultural Studies. The fiftieth anniversary of the Centre is being commemorated at Birmingham this year.

The Stuart Hall Project will be screened at the University on the 20th of March. It’s a visual feast that draws on a wealth of old BBC archival footage, from Hall’s visits back to the Caribbean, various interviews, and news footage of race riots and the Thatcher era. Hall’s experiences of growing up in Jamaica in a mixed family, his arrival at Oxford and his involvement the New Left are at the centre of the story. This is a life that both spans and intensely reflects on imperial and post-colonial Britain. His taste in music (Miles Davis especially) also comes out beautifully in the film, as it does in this highly recommended Desert Island Discs podcast.

When I was an undergraduate studying at a North American liberal arts college in the late nineties, the influence of Cultural Studies was deeply embedded in the curriculum. Hall’s ideas had particular resonance for me. Although he was speaking mainly from his own experiences of a post-colonial Britain struggling with its own multiculturalism, I found in his work an eloquent articulation of the politics of belonging in all societies that have become increasingly global. The words below spoke to the multicultural Canada in which I grew up as well as the historically cosmopolitan Asian port-cities I started studying as a graduate student. To a social historian of cities and globalization, they still seem fresh:

“In a world of constant movement, both forced and free, both at the centre and the periphery of the global system, communities and societies are increasingly multiple in their nature. They are composed of communities with different origins, drawing on different traditions, coming from different places, obliged to make a life together within the confines still of a fixed territorial boundary or space while acknowledging that they are making a common life, not living a form of apartheid of separatism. They want, nevertheless, to retain in some sense the distinctiveness of their historical roots in the place in which they have ended up”.



It’s Annual Lecture time, and this year we are delighted to welcome Professor Susan Pedersen from Columbia University.  She’ll be speaking next Wednesday, February 12th, about her new book on the League of Nations and its mandates system, published by OUP later this year.  All are welcome, and there will be a drinks reception afterwards. For more information and to register, please visit this page:

Big thanks are owed to Benjamin Thomas White, our former director of the Centre for Modern and Contemporary History (who has, sadly, departed us for the Scottish highlands and the hallowed halls of Glasgow University) – and of course the original creator of this blog –  for arranging this lecture many months ago, and also for taking time out of his busy day to help me find a suitable image and map for the poster this week. All shortfalls in ensuing poster-design are my own – these are big shoes to fill! (-SL).  

We hope to see you there!



On Wednesday, February 5th, we will be welcoming Professor William Clarence-Gervaise, who will be speaking on ‘The Global Struggle for Rubber in World War II’.  All are welcome, and there will be drinks.

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Reimagining Birmingham

soweto kinch

Here’s a nice BBC Radio 4 piece on Birmingham seen through the eyes of jazz/hip-hop musician Soweto Kinch.  Kinch talks of growing up in the vibrant multi-ethnic neighborhood of Soho Road and Handsworth among West Indian and Punjabi immigrants. In discussion with Afro-Caribbean intellectuals at 104 Heathfield, Kinch picks apart the complex links between the Enlightenment-era salons of Soho House, Birmingham manufacturing and the slave trade, and the importance of engaging with Birmingham’s history of diversity at a deeper historical level  – SL

Click image for source.


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