Empire’s political afterlives: Two new books from the Embers of Empire project

In this Author Meets Critics Debate, two recent books from the Embers of Empire project at UCPH examine the long afterlives of the British Empire in contemporary political culture and social memory from distinctive perspectives.

The event is open to all and will be followed by a reception.

Ezekiel Mercau: The Falklands War: An Imperial History

Ezekiel Mercau will present his recently published monograph The Falklands War: An Imperial History (Cambridge University Press, 2019).

In his book, he revisits a decades-old debate about whether the Falklands dispute was (and remains) a last-ditch effort to hold on to the vestiges of Britain’s imperial past.  Taking Britain's painful process of decolonisation as his starting point, he shows how the Falklands lobby helped revive the idea of a 'British world', transforming a minor squabble into a full-blown war. Boasting original perspectives on the Falklanders, the Four Nations and the Anglo-Argentines, and based on a wealth of unseen material, he sheds new light on the British world, Thatcher's Britain, devolution, immigration and political culture – arguing that neither the dispute, the war, nor its aftermath can be divorced from the ongoing legacies of empire.

The presentation will be followed by comments from Professor Morten Heiberg, Department of English, Germinc and Romance Studies, University of Copenhagen.

Ezekiel Mercau is a postdoctoral fellow at University College Dublin,

Stuart Ward & Astrid Rasch: Embers of Empire in Brexit Britain

Stuart Ward and Astrid Rasch will present their recent anthology Embers of Empire in Brexit Britain (Bloomsbury, 2019).

It addresses similar questions of imperial memory, historical legacies and political agency from the perspective of the Brexit debate, turning a critical eye to the widely-held notion that the long shadow of the imperial past has much to answer for. The authors collectively pose the question: to what extent should the residual after-effects of Britain's colonial empire be taken at face value? From the 'Rhodes must fall' controversy and contested anniversaries to immigration scares and the problem of defining Britishness itself in a post-imperial world, an eclectic mix of expert researchers, writers and commentators consider the legacy of the British empire in the battle over Brexit. As the United Kingdom haggles its way out of the European Union and casts about for an alternative future, this volume shows how the memory of the empire remains as potent a political force as ever.

The presentation will be followed by comments from Professor Uffe Østergaard, Copenhagen Business School and be concluded by a Q&A with the audience.

Stuart Ward is Head of the Saxo Institute, University of Copenhagen and Astrid Rasch is Associate Professor at NTNU Trondheim.