Category Archives: Autumn 2015 Seminar Series

Roundtable: Disentangling the World: The Politics of Autarky after the First World War

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Programme

 

Session 1: 12:30-14:30h

  • Jamie Martin (Harvard), “The Internationalization of Colonial Economic Administration: Strategizing Postwar Stabilization and Financial Reconstruction at the League of Nations, 1920-1923”.
  • Gabriela Frei (Oxford), “International Law and the World Economy after 1918: A Jurist’s Perspective”.
  • Discussant: Simon Jackson

Coffee

Session 2: 15-17h

  • Patricia Chiantera-Stutte (Università degli Studi di Bari), “Lebensraum and Autarky in German Geopolitical Discourse at the Beginning of the 20th Century”.
  • Klaus Richter (Birmingham), “Self-Sufficiency and the Assessment of Emerging States: East Central Europe in the Postwar Order, 1916-1923”.
  • Discussant: Corey Ross

 

Participants

 

Patricia Chiantera-Stutte is Associate Professor at the University of Bari. Her main research field is the history of right-wing political thought in Italy and Germany. Among other topics, she has published on German geopolitical concepts, on biopolitics and on Italian fascism.

 

Gabriela Frei is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow and Junior Research Fellow in History at Oxford University. Her postdoctoral research project examines how the understanding of a legal international order changed as a result of the First World War, and how a new international economic order emerged during the interwar period.

 

Simon Jackson is Lecturer in Modern Middle Eastern History at the University of Birmingham. He is completing a book on the global politics of economic development in Syria and Lebanon after World War One.

 

Jamie Martin is a PhD candidate in the Department of History at Harvard University. His dissertation looks at the origins of the earliest plans to govern the world economy in twentieth-century Europe and the United States.

 

Klaus Richter is a Birmingham Fellow and Lecturer in Eastern European History at the University of Birmingham. He is currently working on a history of Poland and the Baltics during the First World War and the interwar period, which focuses on the specifics of statehood in the region.

 

Corey Ross is Professor of Modern History at the University of Birmingham. He is currently working on an environmental history of the heyday of European imperialism, from roughly 1880 to 1960.

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Autumn 2015 Week 8 Seminar: Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Berlin): ‘War as Adventure. The Experience of the Condor Legion in the Spanish Civil War’

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The Week 8 Modern and Contemporary History Research Seminar is on Wednesday 18 November 2015, at 16:30h (NOTE LATER TIME) in Arts Lecture Room 4 (LR4).

It will be delivered by:

 Stefanie Schüler-Springorum (Berlin)

All are welcome and there will be drinks afterwards!

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Autumn 2015 Week 7 Seminar: Konrad Lawson (St. Andrews): “An Old Warlord’s Guide to World Peace and Love: Yan Xishan’s Confucian Cosmopolitan International”

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The Week 7 Modern and Contemporary History Research Seminar is on Wednesday 11 November 2015, at 16:15h in Arts Lecture Room 4 (LR4).

It will be delivered by: Dr. Konrad Lawson.

Abstract: Yan Xishan was one of the most famous Chinese warlords of the 20th century, controlling his province of Shanxi for over four decades, experimenting with an eclectic mix of social and political reforms, and alternately fighting and cooperating with his various military and political opponents, including Nationalist and Communist Chinese forces and the invading Japanese. In his final years in Taiwan, Yan became a utopian in defeat, devoting his final years to fine tuning an alternative vision of world order based on love, anti-Communism, a planned economy, and an institutional cosmopolitanism. This talk situates Yan’s plans for global unity in its longer historical context, but also argues that it is best interpreted as belonging to a broader global repository of creative expressions of transnational idealism peaking in the middle of the century.

All are welcome and there will be drinks afterwards.

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The Global Transformation of Time: 1870 – 1950

This week’s guest post comes from our Modern & Contemporary research seminar speaker, Vanessa Ogle (University of Pennsylvania), who will present her work at the Centre on Wednesday 21 October at 16:15h.

Cover of William Willett’s pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” 1914. Courtesy, Vanessa Ogle.

Cover of William Willett’s pamphlet “The Waste of Daylight” 1914. Courtesy, Vanessa Ogle.

As new networks of railways, steamships, and telegraph communications brought distant places into unprecedented proximity, previously minor discrepancies in local time-telling became a global problem. In my forthcoming book, The Global Transformation of Time, I chronicle of the struggle to standardize clock times, calendars, and social time from 1870 to 1950 and highlight the many hurdles that proponents of uniformity faced in establishing international standards.

Yet clock times and calendars were not only concepts that were standardized and internationalized during the nineteenth century, like so many other subject matters and movements during the same years. Time also had a more foundational role to play in nineteenth-century globalization. A globalizing world led contemporaries to reflect on the annihilation of space and distance and to develop a global consciousness.

In his famous Imagined Communities, Benedict Anderson argued that print products and newspapers in particular, made it possible for dispersed audiences to conceive of themselves as belonging to the imagined community of a nation. Yet what Anderson did not see was that new means of communication and transportation encouraged contemporaries to imagine their nations and societies in the world, and to view them as members of a global community of nations and societies.

Time – historical, evolutionary, religious, social, or legal – served as the backdrop against which to imagine this global community, by comparing nations and societies and situating them in universal time. Time established the hierarchies that separated ‘advanced’ from ‘backward’ peoples in an age when such distinctions underwrote European imperialism.

Time thus became a universal language in which to make sense of an interconnected but heterogeneous world during the age of empire. Time’s role as such a universal metric meant that a surprisingly wide array of observers commented on varieties of time. Around 1900, the result was a striking simultaneity of ‘time talk’ around the globe. Involving German and French government officials, British social reformers, colonial administrators in Africa and Asia, Indian nationalists, Arab reformers, Muslim scholars, and League of Nation bureaucrats, such exchanges about time often heightened national and regional disparity.

For several decades, countrywide mean times were introduced first and foremost with national and regional concerns in mind. Germany introduced GMT+1 as “Central European Time” – Mitteleuropäische Zeit. “Mitteleuropa” was a designation drawn from the emerging discipline of geopolitics and denoted Germany’s ‘middling’ position on the continent as covering, at least in aspiration, much of the space between France in the West and Russia in the East.

In the colonial world, mean times were applied late and often designed for regional purposes. Half-, quarter, and even twenty-minute differences rather than even hours were therefore the norm rather than the exception. The standardization of clock times hence remained incomplete as late as the 1940s, about sixty years later than normally assumed. The much sought-after unification of calendars, entirely overlooked by existing research, never came to pass.

The Global Transformation of Time reveals how globalization was less a relentlessly homogenizing force than a slow and uneven process of adoption and adaptation that often accentuated national differences.

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Autumn 2015 Week 4 Seminar: Vanessa Ogle (Penn): ‘The Global Transformation of Time 1870–1950’

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The Week 4 Modern and Contemporary History Research Seminar is on Wednesday 21 October 2015, at 16:15h in Arts Lecture Room 4 (LR4).

We are delighted that it is organized in conjunction with BOMGS and will be delivered by:

Vanessa Ogle.

All are welcome and there will be drinks afterwards.

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Whose postcolonialism? The French and their colonial past.

Dr. Emile Chabal will be speaking in a joint event on Wednesday 7 October, co-sponsored by the Centre for Modern & Contemporary History. Here he blogs on some of the themes to be discussed at this week’s seminar, in the first of a series of occasional guest pieces by visiting speakers and contributing historians around the world.

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Fagairolles 34, reproduced under Creative Commons via Wikimedia.

Memorial to French dead in Algerian War of Independence, Sète, France. Photo by Fagairolles 34, reproduced under Creative Commons license via Wikimedia.


Emile Chabal, University of Edinburgh

In my recent book, I place postcolonial questions at the heart of contemporary French politics. I argue that apparently insular debates about citizenship and the nation are, in fact, closely tied to France’s colonial past and its postcolonial present. I also argue that it is impossible to analyse the key dividing lines in French politics without understanding the attitudes of political actors to France’s colonial project.

Yet, over the course of my research, I have discovered just how nationally – and linguistically – bounded postcolonialism really is. There is a common misconception that France has not “dealt with” its colonial past and that French academia has been extremely hostile to postcolonial theory. To some extent this is true. Postcolonial studies courses, for instance, are still a rarity in university literature departments in France.

But this is hardly the whole story. In fact, one could easily argue that France has had a much more vigorous debate about its colonial past than almost any other country in Europe, especially the UK. Since the late 1990s, issues like colonial violence, torture and the relationship between Islam and the French colonial project have been at the forefront of public debate. Even if we go further back into the 1970s and 80s, postcolonial questions were clearly visible in the identity politics of France’s substantial pied-noir community.

So what’s the problem? Why do British and American scholars of France maintain that France has failed to come to terms with its colonial past?

The difficulty, it seems to me, is one of definition. Most people would accept that, in North America, the UK and South Asia, discussions of postcolonialism emerged from the disciplines of literary criticism and social theory through the works of Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak and others.[1] By contrast, the genealogy of postcolonialism is quite distinct in France, where it has been local politicians, activists and non-governmental organisations who have grappled with colonialism and its legacy.

This means that, while much of the debate surrounding postcolonialism in the English-speaking world has focused on “texts” and “representations”, in France it has focused on street names, memorials, museums, parliamentary laws and issues of historical memory.

One of the consequences of this is that postcolonialism has had a much wider reach in France than elsewhere. Instead of being confined to university departments and research seminars, the question of how colonialism should be remembered, what its impact was and what sort of legacy it has left is one that is fought out in the public sphere.

There are few better examples of this than a 2005 legislative package which included a clause to ensure that French schools teach the “positive” aspects of colonisation. Predictably, this caused huge controversy. Pied-noir organisations, who had been the driving-force behind the legislation came out strongly in favour of it, while historians and left-wing political organisations lined up to criticise it. Eventually, the offending clause was removed from the legislation by presidential decree, but this did little to stop a far-reaching discussion of French colonialism in every major press and media outlet.

The whole affair was a stark reminder that, even though the development of postcolonial ‘theory’ was a distinctly Anglophone phenomenon, the French have been no less engaged with their colonial heritage. It is simply that, as with so many other things in France, the political and partisan aspects of postcolonialism have always been much more prominent than its academic manifestations.

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[1] It is worth noting, however, that there have been many distinguished Francophone theorists of colonialism (including Édouard Glissant, Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon), and that many Anglophone postcolonial theorists were inspired by French thinkers like Jacques Derrida. So, even in this strictly theoretical definition of postcolonialism, the French are present.

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