University of Bath

Shadows of Empire

A Bristol Festival of Ideas event featuring IPR Director Professor Nick Pearce.

2 May 20187.00pm
to
2 May 20188.00pm
£8

The idea of a global alliance between Britain and its old commonwealth colonies has recently made a remarkable comeback in the context of Brexit. Based on the belief in a special bond between the English-speaking peoples of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, it has been dubbed the ‘Anglosphere’ by its supporters and ‘Empire 2.0’ by its critics.

Philip Murphy (The Empire’s New Clothes) and Michael Kenny and Nick Pearce (co-authors of Shadows of Empire) trace the historical origins of this idea back to the late Victorian era. They show how it has been reworked, amended and reinvented by some of Britain’s leading politicians, from Churchill to Thatcher, and how it was revived to support the case for Brexit. They explain how the Commonwealth is organised, and look at what has held it together for so long. Why has it had such a troubled recent past, and is it realistic to imagine that its fortunes might be reversed? Can it ever escape from the shadow of the British empire to become an organisation based on shared values, rather than a shared history?

The event will be chaired by Sumita Mukherjee, senior lecturer in history at the University of Bristol.

Speaker profiles

Michael Kenny is professor of public policy at the University of Cambridge. He previously held positions at: Queen’s University, Belfast; the University of Sheffield; and Queen Mary University of London, where he was the inaugural director of the Mile End Institute. He is currently a visiting fellow at the UCL’s Constitution Unit, is co-director of the British Academy’s ‘Governing England’ programme, and is a member of an external experts panel convened by the Scottish Parliament to advise on the constitutional implications of Brexit. His latest book, co-written with Nick Pearce, is Shadows of Empire: The Anglosphere in British Politics.

Philip Murphy is director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies and professor of British and Commonwealth History at the University of London. He has published extensively on the history of British decolonisation and, recently, on the Commonwealth-wide role of the British monarchy. Since 2007, he has been co-editor of the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. His latest book is The Empire’s New Clothes: The Myth of the Commonwealth.

Nick Pearce is professor of public policy and director of the Institute for Policy Research at the University of Bath. He was formerly director of the IPPR think-tank and co-editor of the journal of ideas Juncture. He was head of the 10 Downing Street Policy Unit between 2008 and 2010, with responsibility for the formulation of policy advice to the Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, and has worked in a number of government departments. His latest book, co-written with Mike Kenny is Shadows of Empire: The Anglosphere in British Politics.