Monthly Archives: February 2021

Cultural narratives of the 1990s

This post is the second in a series of six blogs which will document and critically engage with a workshop series hosted by Dr. David Geiringer (QMUL) and Dr. Helen McCarthy (Cambridge) under the title ‘Rethinking Britain in the 1990s: Towards a new research agenda’. Running between January and March 2021, the series brings together contemporary historians from a range of career stages to map existing work and stimulate new thinking on a decade which, from the perspective of our present times, looks very unfamiliar indeed. by Jessica White (University of Manchester) Ask someone to recall a cultural history of Britain in the nineties, and, depending on who you are talking to, they would probably reference Harry Potter, Live & Kicking, Oasis or Tracey Emin. Or, they might choose to talk about Goosebumps, SMTV, Blur or Damien Hirst. To an even greater degree than on previous panels, the personal infused the third, ‘cultural narratives’, session of the Rethinking Britain in the Nineties series, so much so that it came to resemble, in Kennetta Hammond Perry’s words, ‘a witness seminar’. And yet in his provocation paper, Sam Wetherell searched for a theme that could neatly tie together the various strands and […]

Internationalising Colonial Wars: The Geneva Conventions in the Global South

by Dr. Boyd van Dijk (University of Melbourne) It was an eye-opener, and it was puzzling. While exploring the history of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the most important rules ever formulated for armed conflict, I noticed an astonishing historical phenomenon that defied simple explanation. For most historians, it is a well-known fact that twentieth-century empires framed their colonial wars as ‘emergencies,’ or as ‘police actions,’ in an attempt to escape international scrutiny. Think of the twentieth-century colonial wars in Algeria, Kenya, and elsewhere. However, as I was going through imperial archival documents from France, the Netherlands, and Switzerland, I was surprised to read that those same empires had invited the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to intervene in their colonial wars in Southeast Asia after 1945. What can account for this counterintuitive phenomenon?, I wondered. And what might be its historical significance in light of our broader understanding of we answer the question of empire and its relationship with global (legal) politics? The Indonesian Revolution In my Past & Present article, ‘Internationalising Colonial Wars: The Geneva Conventions in the Global South’, I begin my story of rewriting the genealogy of the legal internationalization of colonial war by looking […]

Heathrow Airport and the Birth of Neoliberalism

by Prof. James Vernon (University of California, Berkley) These are odd times to be reading and writing about Heathrow. The Age of COVID has reduced passenger numbers by a staggering 72% to levels not seen since the Oil Crisis in the mid-1970s. That crisis led the government to shelve plans for a third London airport for a decade. This year the planet has had some reprieve as COVID has compelled an airport still seeking to build a third runway and more terminals to operate on just one runway and three of its five terminals. It is workers in the aviation industry that are once again made to pay the costs as massive mutlinationals worry about collapsing profits and falling share prices. British Airways, whose recently retired CEO has made £33million in salary, bonuses and pension payments since 2011, plans to make 12,000 of its 42,000 workers redundant. It has already laid off half that number, many of them cabin crew. Heathrow, whose major shareholders include the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar and Singapore as well as the UK Universities Superannuation Scheme, has 4,700 employees. The airport has proposed pay-cuts, early retirements and threatened section 188 notices that would allow them […]