Abstract In the early 1950s, the psychoanalysts Michael and Enid Balint established in the Tavistock Clinic an innovative peer group for general practitioners (GPs). The goal was to create a forum of family doctors to discuss case studies of a psychosocial nature and to provide them with psychotherapeutic tools to better help their patients. What started as a small peer group of GPs in London became, by the 1960s, a worldwide medical movement which still exists today. This article traces the cultural and social origins of the Balint Groups movement, and aims to contextualize it within the ‘psychosocial turn’ of interwar and postwar Britain; the need of general practice to renew itself as a profession after WWII and the introduction of the then NHS; and the flourishing of a new welfarist ideology in the postwar years. The article argues that the Balintian approach is emblematic of the ‘pastoral’ role – ‘patronizing’ and ‘caring’ at the same time – played by the British welfare state in the early years of its citizens’ everyday lives.
Abstract Even as a growing body of literature has in recent years revealed the ubiquity of racialized violence within Western colonies in Africa, Asia and the Middle East, another historical narrative remains insistent that the British Empire constituted a notable exception to the rule. This nostalgic narrative of a uniquely British ‘soft approach’ rests in part on the belief that colonial officers possessed a deep cultural understanding of the people and societies they dealt with, which allowed them to manoeuvre skilfully throughout the Empire without having to resort to the sort of atrocities that characterized German and Belgian colonies in Africa. The result is an implicitly sanitized account of the British Empire and of British military practice as exemplary and even humane. This article critically examines those assumptions, focusing in particular on the cultural knowledge that was weaponized during colonial conflicts in the decades preceding the First World War. The forms and functions of what became known as ‘savage warfare’ were not simply shaped by the tactical necessities of asymmetric fighting in the peripheries of Empire. Colonial military violence and the development of new technologies, such as the expanding Dum-Dum bullet, were based on deeply encoded assumptions concerning the inherent difference of local opponents and as such were underwritten by both imperial ideologies and a specific body of colonial expertise. The rule of colonial difference dictated and justified techniques of violence that were by the same token considered unacceptable in conflicts between so-called ‘civilized’ nations and, in many instances, slaughter was in fact the ‘British Way’ – in theory and in practice.
Abstract In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries ayahs were a familiar sight on board ships, caring for the children of British families as they travelled to and from ‘home’. Existing and contemporary literature, however, only addresses their experiences once on British soil, and positions them as victims of an inequitable colonial system, abandoned by their employers and in need of rescue. This paper moves the focus away from the metropole towards an ayah-centred understanding of the journey and reveals an infrastructure that linked global sites of empire. This shift in perspective enables a richer understanding of the ayahs’ experiences both as racial and gendered ‘others’ and as agents who leveraged situations to their own advantage. By exploring the intersection of colonial and colonized, the paper shows how, at each stage of the journey, spaces designed to contain could be transformed into spaces of gain.
Abstract This article explores the concept of soldiers as professional authors, confronting the enduring myth of ‘accidental’ military autobiography. To do so it concentrates on case studies of British veterans from the Peninsular War (1808–14), who wrote and published military memoirs in their hundreds, contributing to the creation of an influential and commercially successful genre. In their prefaces, these old soldiers frequently confessed their astonishment at having produced long narrative accounts, professing not to have the slightest literary talent nor education, nor the least authorial ambition – claims which have largely been taken at face value by historians. Drawing upon evidence from publishers’ archives, however, this article reveals the immense and sometimes frenzied editing, publishing and marketing activity which in fact usually underlay the facade of the simple soldier’s tale. Considering these memoir-writers as authors in their own right, the article showcases veterans from a wide variety of backgrounds who were actively involved in the publication of their books, knowledgeable about the industry, and eager for success in the literary rather than military world. More broadly, it challenges ideas about how the memory of war was constructed in practice, and to what extent soldiers themselves participated in this process.
Abstract The thatched farmhouse in which the Murray family lived dated from at least the middle of the nineteenth century when James Fee, a grandfather of Mrs Murray, returned to Ireland from America with enough money to marry and settle down. Originally a public house it stood directly on the dividing line between County Fermanagh and County Cavan. The Government of Ireland Act, 1920 and the Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 elevated this unimportant boundary into a border between states. With one part in Northern Ireland (and, therefore, the United Kingdom) and another part in the Irish Free State, the Murrays could sit on a chair ‘in the Six Counties’ while eating off ‘the table in the Twenty-six’, or pass the salt back and forward from North to South. These humorous features of partition stood in contrast both to the family’s modest circumstances and to the conflict, road closures and restrictions that shaped border life. In time, the house attracted the attention of propagandists, journalists and travel writers, and brought the Murrays into contact or, in the last instance, correspondence with politicians, foreign visitors, and the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. This paper concerns the remarkable story of this otherwise unremarkable family and their home.
Abstract This article centres on an archery match played in August 1478 by wool merchants living in Calais, at that time an English-occupied town. I analyse how the invitation to play a competitive but friendly game between fellow freemen of the wool Staple reiterated masculine social norms and strengthened corporate bonds in a fraternity setting. Set in the wider context of the Calais wool merchant community, the archery match provides the perfect example of homosocial enculturation. In earlier scholarship, sports have typically been seen as a location for a stereotypical hegemonic masculinity based on divisive competition, where the struggle for dominance requires a victor. What happened in Calais in 1478 was more complex, but no less reinforcing of hegemonic social norms: an elite masculine culture, the company of the Staple, was celebrated through a complex blending of competition, collaboration and ultimately reintegration into a corporate whole.
Abstract In the early twentieth century a large network of organizations, co-ordinated by the Association for Moral and Social Hygiene (AMSH), campaigned for changes to the law on sexual offences. In particular, they sought to strengthen age-of-consent law for the protection of young girls. Their efforts resulted in a Criminal Law Amendment Bill in 1921 which would have raised the age of consent for indecent assault and removed significant weaknesses in the existing legislation which made prosecutions difficult. However, there was active opposition to the Bill, often anti-feminist in tone. An amendment creating an offence of ‘gross indecency between females’ was introduced by these opponents. If enacted, it would have made all sexual activity between women criminal. The amendment, designed to directly attack the Bill and its feminist supporters, not only led to the Bill’s failure but also posed difficulties for the AMSH and others in formulating a response. Above all, lesbianism was considered publicly unspeakable, as the parliamentary debates themselves made clear. What answer could respectable women therefore make? This article explores the responses of the Bill’s supporters, particularly the AMSH.
Abstract The British New Left’s lack of influence in working-class and labour movement politics is often adduced as evidence of political weakness and contrasted unfavourably with its evident strength in matters of ideas and theory. Yet the substance of New Left efforts to reach or create a social base for its ideas has rarely been examined. Focusing on the period between 1956 and 1968, this essay demonstrates that New Left involvement in working-class political mobilization was more persistent and significant than is usually recognized. New Leftists played a key role in the Fife Socialist League founded by miner Lawrence Daly, attempted to establish a New Left ‘industrial wing’, and pursued socialist educational and agitational work in working-class organizations and communities. Though not producing the ‘political breakthrough’ envisaged by some protagonists, these engagements need not be seen as having failed, but as having created links and resources of significance for local and community histories. Closer attention to such engagements also rebalances a historiography that has focused on internal discontinuities and theoretical debates, offering a fuller sense of the New Left’s activism and of its contribution to British political economy.
Abstract The article examines radical cultural politics by focusing on the West German initiative of Rock gegen Rechts (‘Rock Against the Right’). This campaign involved concerts, publications and demonstrations, most notably the staging of two large-scale festivals in Frankfurt/Main in 1979 and 1980. Rock Against Racism – launched in Britain in 1976 – served as a model for the activists. Yet Rock gegen Rechts differed from its British counterpart in significant ways, both in terms of the political and musical currents that sustained the campaign and with regard to the object of protest. Through the prism of Rock gegen Rechts, the article shows how campaigners debated the nature of ‘the right’ – an important subject in a country whose fascist past figured prominently in public debate. The campaign occurred at a critical juncture of the German left, as it underwent seemingly contradictory processes of fragmentation and coalition-building during the late 1970s. The article explores a left-wing milieu that was associated with music and alternative lifestyles, but also with a nascent green movement. Moreover, the example of Rock gegen Rechts sheds fresh light on the interaction between music and politics on the one side, and between music, commerce and consumption on the other.
Abstract This article traces the legacies of the First World War across the twentieth century and three generations of my family in Australia. For my grandfather Robert Henry Roper, an itinerant labourer before the war, marriage in the early 1920s and domesticity helped contain the physical and mental toll of military service in Gallipoli and the Middle East. Yet the identities of family man and bushman remained in tension throughout his life. The husband and father living in suburban Melbourne continued to dream of the bush and make plans for his return. In old age, those escapes became literary: my grandfather’s 1970s memoirs depicted his service with the Imperial Camel Corps, patrolling the Sinai and Libyan deserts, as a form of bush wandering. The history of the war in the Roper family suggests the limits of some histories of trauma, aftermath and intergenerational transmission. Each soldier went to war with his own personal past, and war alone did not determine the nature of return. Nor did it always shatter bodies and minds: its aftermath was often less total but more enduring than some historians recognize. The long Great War was to be found in everyday domestic life. My own suburban Melbourne childhood in the 1960s and 70s, half a century after the conflict, was still lived in its shadows.
Abstract What can smugglers tell us about the state? Few observers are more keenly attuned than smugglers to the subtleties of how borders and regulations are enforced in actual practice. However, few actors are more tight-lipped with this kind of knowledge. This article examines a rare instance where a smuggler details exactly how – and more importantly why – laws, borders and bureaucracies can be subverted. We follow the tortuous journey of several tons of charas, a potent form of cannabis, as it is transported legally from the Himalayas across the Indian Ocean and is eventually smuggled into Egypt. In the process, the article demonstrates how colonial bureaucracies are both sustained and undermined by an internal racial hierarchy in which ‘natives’ are the face of the state in relation to the colonized public and Europeans are the face of the state in relation to the metropolitan public. Drawing on the insights of smugglers, I term this the janus-faced nature of colonial governance, which simultaneously condoned corruption and shielded colonial officials from its consequences.
Abstract This article examines the role of ‘exile’ in constructing the boundaries of belonging to metropolitan Britain in the early nineteenth century. In the context of mass mobility and displacement caused by imperial expansion and revolutionary wars, ‘exile’ took on new meanings that focused on the sadness, suffering and loss. This new discourse of ‘exile’ configured the nation state as the only viable site of belonging, emptying all other spaces of affective meaning. Although ‘exile’ usually refers to a state of forced displacement, many British imperial elites used ‘exile’ to represent their own situations in the colonies. Focusing on the letters and diaries of the British imperial judge and Whig politician, Sir James Mackintosh (1765–1832), written from Bombay between 1804 and 1811, this article argues that his use of ‘exile’ enabled him to effect an emotional and ontological separation between himself and Bombay’s cosmopolitan population. By referring to his residence in Bombay as a period of ‘exile’, Mackintosh emptied Bombay of any positive meaning and configured Britain as the only possible site of belonging and of ‘home.’
Abstract The 1913 Dublin Lockout dominates Irish labour history. With at least 20,000 workers ‘locked out’ of work for joining James Larkin’s assertive Irish Transport and General Workers’ Union, it was one of the most dramatic responses to radical trade unionism, socialism and syndicalism in the early 1910s. Yet, in this period Ireland was also fractured by sectarian divides and the polarizing politics of the Home Rule controversy. In the rhetorical whirlwind that engulfed Larkin and his union, we can see how these different political and social conflicts overlapped. Close examination of the hostile reactions of both employers and large sections of Dublin’s vibrant print media reveal that the Lockout was fundamentally understood in the wider context of the ‘progress’ of the Irish nation. Radical trade unionism was perceived by many groups, including Catholic-nationalist employers and both moderate and ‘advanced’ Irish nationalists, as hugely damaging to the national cause, and ideals of a united nation were used to criticize and attack Larkin’s union. The charged public debate over the Lockout thus helps us to understand the fate of political ideologies such as socialism during the ascendancy of Irish nationalism in the early twentieth century.
Abstract These two rare documents – one previously unpublished, the other published almost a century ago, never republished and still almost completely unknown – capture some key dimensions of the revolutionary thought of Claude McKay in the pregnant years after the Russian Revolution and the Great War. A committed revolutionary socialist and early advocate of Bolshevism, McKay urged Marcus Garvey, the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association, the largest black organization the world has ever seen, to forge alliances with progressive whites in the common struggle against capitalism and imperialism while maintaining the autonomy and independence of the black movement. The second document, written for Garvey’s newspaper, Negro World, tells the poignant story of black (Caribbean, African and African American) and other non-white colonial veterans of the war living in London. McKay, residing in London at the time (he lived there for more than a year – 1919–21) highlighted the transformation in their political consciousness as a consequence of the racism they experienced while serving in the war and while living in London. The radicalization of these soldiers portended an upsurge in the anti-colonial struggle, McKay reckoned. And he was right. The import of these documents extends beyond the person of Claude McKay. They capture the pain as well as the yearning and optimism of millions around the world in the global turmoil that emerged out of the blood-soaked debris of the Great War and the aftermath of the October Revolution a century ago.