Anna Bocking-Welch
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Imperial lives and Commonwealth visions
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Chapter 1 is about the promotion of the Commonwealth as a model for international cooperation. Using the activities of the Royal Commonwealth Society (RCS), it assesses the afterlife of empire as it was lived by those who had been the most involved. Negotiating the transition from Empire to Commonwealth was a complex process and this chapter is about the difficulty of adaptation. This is not a story of triumphant success – the membership of the RCS was an ageing cohort, often more interested in sociability than public engagement. But neither is it a story of outright failure. Many found scope for optimism by reflecting on the possibilities of the new modern Commonwealth. This chapter shows that the Commonwealth was not merely an ‘imperial hangover’ – the preservation of tradition to soothe those who had been invested in the imperial project – but that it also provided the foundation for new forms of cooperative partnership that informed many of the international engagement activities discussed in the later chapters.

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British civic society at the end of empire

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