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.


This week we welcome Howard Chiang from Warwick University, who will be giving a paper entitled ‘China Trans Formed: How Sex Changed from Colonial to Sinophone Modernity’.  All are welcome, and there will be drinks.


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This week we host a very timely joint seminar with African Studies and Anthropology, welcoming historian Saul Dubow.  Professor Dubow will be speaking on ‘South Africa, 1960-1: From ‘Wind of Change’ to ‘Armed Struggle’ this Wednesday 22 January at 5:00 pm in the Danford Room.  All are welcome, and there will be drinks.


Nelson Mandela burning his pass book, which the apartheid government required all black South Africans to carry (c. 1952). Click image for source.

Abstract of Professor Saul Dubow’s talk:

The recent death of Nelson Mandela has occasioned an extraordinary outpouring of public media comment, much of which accords weakly with the existing historical scholarship. In his career, Mandela made two very big decisions: the first, in 1960, was to embark on the armed struggle in South Africa; the second, in the mid-1980s, was to enter into a process of political negotiations with the apartheid government. This talk focusses on Mandela’s first decision, and suggests that the ANC’s decision to embark on revolutionary change might have delayed rather than hastened achievement of a political solution. My talk focusses on the year 1960-1 when Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC, was formed. Much of the historiography of this period has represented the decision as unavoidable in the wake of the Sharpeville Massacre of 1960. In doing so, the relentless tempo of events over the course of 1960-1 is tidied up and telescoped into a narrative arc so as to occlude other possibilities. My talk seeks to integrate two increasingly divergent historiographies – one African nationalist, the other Afrikaner nationalist –  which mirror each other to the extent that neither sees any alternative to armed resistance (in the case of the former) and state crackdown (in the case of the latter). By reading both across and against the grain of these historiographic traditions, I shall point to other possible outcomes. In particular, I highlight the political fluidity of this moment and ask whether there were any serious prospects of some form of `national convention’ taking place – particularly if prime minister had died at the hands of his attempted assassin in April 1960.
More information on Saul Dubow’s research can be found at:
Saul Dubow’s forthcoming book, to be published by Oxford University Press this spring/summer is Apartheid, 1948-1994

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