International mobility and the pursuit of informed understanding
in British civic society at the end of empire
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Chapter 2 extends existing histories of imperial travel and exploration to reveal how ideas about reciprocity, knowledge, and the right to represent foreign peoples changed in the context of decolonisation. It uses the international activities of the Women’s Institute and Rotary Club to show how imperial decline shaped both the practical and discursive dimensions of educative activities such as film screenings, lectures, and International Days. Global events determined not only which parts of the world were worth investing time in, but also which aspects of foreign life were worth knowing about. This chapter shows that instigators of international engagements were typically mobile members of society who had some form of ‘first hand’ experience of the Empire/Commonwealth. While some speakers put themselves forward as amateur ambassadors, bringing their own experiences back to their local communities, others claimed authority by speaking from positions of professional expertise. This chapter uses these events as a window on to the wider debates about expertise and amateurism that characterised many discussions of diplomacy, international relations, development, and imperial administration in this period.

British civic society at the end of empire

Decolonisation, Globalisation, and International Responsibility


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