Chapter 2 examines the taming of the Rhine in the European geographical imaginary and contends that the early nineteenth-century ambition to transform the Rhine into a frictionless commercial highway reveals the double moral and economic logics behind the political project to tame nature. Controlling the river’s unruly flows would bring both economic and moral gains – a straightened and disciplined river would minimize economic loss from flooding, reclaim swamps for agricultural production, and create the ideal highway for local and international trade – but it also represented a moral conquest from the barbarity of swampy disuse. This double economic and moral logic not only informed the development of legitimate state authority along the Rhine; due to its position as an important transnational geography, this double logic extended to international politics. Here, taming the Rhine created both a reliable economic highway for European commerce while eliminating the fractious ‘Teutonic insanity’ that had hindered Rhine prosperity for centuries. The chapter also explores the Romantic counterpoint to this framing of the Rhine, and how the river as high Romantic fantasy only amplified the need to tame it as steamboats of tourists flooded the river and the Rhine became a different kind of economic commodity.
Since the late nineteenth century, the British monarch was the constitutional head and cultural symbol of Greater Britain, a spiritual nexus providing unity and identity to a worldwide community of Britons. With the advent of decolonisation, however, republicanism emerged as a disruptive force that swept the British imperial world. This chapter sheds light on how monarchism and republicanism was perceived among white anglophone communities during the republican referendums in South Africa (1960) and Rhodesia (1969). These events marked the first and second time the British monarchy was dissolved by whites by popular vote and, as such, signalled bad tidings for the future of Britishness as a global civic idea. In these contexts, the chapter argues, republicanism served as a tool to entrench white domination and thereby wrong-foot the logic of decolonisation. Ultimately, it shows how the republican question was caught up in the processes of decolonisation, new nationalism and the break-up of Greater Britain.
In 1967 the British government announced that, starting in the 1967–-68 academic year, there would be different tuition fees for ‘home’ and ‘overseas’ students at British universities and colleges. This policy required drawing a clear distinction between those who belonged in Britain and those who did not, and highlighted significant confusion and misunderstanding about oOverseas sStudents. This chapter explores the shifting sands in the way that overseas students were understood. It particularly examines how overseas students were being racialised by both supporters and critics of the new fees as they perpetuated stereotypes of black people, and black students as poor, destitute, and in need of British assistance.
How did the end of empire affect the projection of British identities overseas? British decolonisation is conventionally understood in terms of the liquidation of the colonial empire in the decades after the Second World War. But it also entailed simultaneous transformations to the self-representation of peoples and cultures all over the world, variously described as British, symbolised by the eclipse of the idea of ‘Greater Britain’. Originally coined by Charles Dilke’s 1868 travelogue of the same name, Greater Britain enjoyed widespread currency throughout the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, before falling into disuse from the 1930s. But Greater British modes of thought, feeling and action persisted into the second half of the twentieth century, becoming embroiled in the global upheavals of imperial decline. Over a remarkably short time span, the ideas, assumptions and networks that had sustained an uneven and imperfectly imagined British world dissolved under the weight of the empire’s precipitate demise. Although these patterns and perspectives have been explored across a range of specific local and national contexts, this collection is the first to examine the wider mesh of interlocking British subjectivities that unravelled at empire’s end.
On 11 January 1943 Britain and the Republic of China signed a treaty for ‘The Relinquishment of Extra-Territorial Rights in China and the Regulation of Related Matters’ that nullified the position the British had secured in China in treaties and through precedence since the 1842 Treaty of Nanjing. Little provision was made for British subjects in China and their interests. This chapter will outline the shape and reach of this presence, stressing its diverse composition, its practical and rhetorical entanglement in the wider ‘Greater British’ world, and its trajectory after January 1943 in the face of Chinese nationalism and revolution. Its legacies include debates that highlight the narrowing of state understandings of rights to British nationality by the beginning of the twenty-first century.
This chapter examines the legacies of empire and expansive notions of ‘Greater Britain’ that shaped the remarkable status of Indians as British subjects after Indian independence, as per the British Nationality Act (BNA) of 1948. It does so by tracing the ways in which drafting the 1955 Indian Citizenship Act necessarily meant negotiating the messy possibilities of citizenship produced by the BNA and the widespread crises of citizenship encountered by overseas Indian migrants in British colonial territories and Commonwealth nations. The diplomatic haze about defining the status of overseas Indians shaped their experiences as ‘entangled citizens’ who were potentially eligible for multiple claims to citizenship and yet whose claims were often contested by all countries involved. Such a reading departs from conventional understandings of Indian citizenship that view it either solely in terms of Partition or as a mechanism through which the Indian state distanced its diaspora. Instead, this chapter reads Indian citizenship as the product of a complex, even paradoxical negotiation of migrant identities shaped by empire.
Ideas of intellectual decolonisation are as old and as diverse as empires and colonialism themselves. For all the superficial evidence of shared intellectual vestiges and mutual cross-fertilisation among the former constituencies of Britain’s settler empire (including ambivalent ‘cousins’ in the United States), –all experiencing newly energised social and political movements addressing the legacies of racial injustice, indigenous rights and white privilege – these global cross-currents bear witness to the greatly diminished resonance of identifiably ‘British world’ patterns of mutual influence. Indeed, such interconnections have been perhaps at least as salient across Europe, all over Africa, to and from Latin America, and more. In light of the calls for Rhodes Must Fall, Black Lives Matters and the decolonisation of the university, this concluding chapter interrogates recent uses of the concepts of decolonisation and decoloniality to suggest both the potential and the problems inherent in these – and their relative autonomy from the afterlife of Greater Britain.
This chapter challenges the widely held view that the end of empire moment in Australia saw Canberra easily switch dependency from London to Washington. Rather, it contends that the twilight of British imperialism in the region was followed by increasing Australian doubts about American staying power in Asia. As a result, policymakers in Canberra faced nothing less than the collapse of a Cold War policy that aimed to keep their ‘great and powerful’ friends engaged in the region. In the wake of the British announcements on East of Suez, American policymakers looked to Australia not only for ongoing support in the war in Vietnam, but for assurance that Australian forces would step up to fill the strategic void left by Britain’s intended departure from the region. The American and British pressure to increase the Australian defence commitments to Malaysia and Singapore therefore presented the governments of Harold Holt (1966-–67) and John Gorton (1968–-71) with an acute dilemma. Caught in a geopolitical whirlwind not of its own making, the Australian government looked to ANZUS as an anchor in a post-imperial world, but it could not provide an easy substitute for the one-time verities of Greater Britain.
Within a British World, Anglicanism was both an agent of, and sustained by, cultures of Britishness. In turn the transformation of the Church of England into the worldwide Anglican Communion was profoundly shaped by the idea and existence of Greater Britain. After the Second World War the break-up of Greater Britain and the erosion of Britishness overlapped, and was interwoven with, the relative decline of Anglicanism in the ‘old’ Commonwealth. This chapter explores how senior British Anglicans perceived these developments. It first charts how British Anglicans visiting Australia after the Second World War were beguiled by its Britishness and convinced of the key role it should play in a Communion in which there were disintegrative forces at work. Yet they also worried about a weakening of the ‘Anglican-ness’ of the Antipodean dominions, fearful that Anglicanism might lose ground to Roman Catholicism. It was hence the implications of the decline of Greater Britain for their own Church that principally animated British Anglicans. But this focus did not preclude imperial sentiment, and senior Anglicans responded to perceived ‘threats’ through efforts to bolster the British connection as well as strengthen the Anglican Communion to maintain it in a position of worldwide influence.
This chapter examines the shock of alienation that has become a ubiquitous theme in scholarly treatment of the empire Windrush arrivals in Britain in the decades after the Second World War. It critiques the tendency to treat West Indian conceptions of Britishness as a species of false consciousness, awaiting correction upon exposure to attitudes in Britain itself, often couched in terms of a ‘rude awakening’. Such naïve readings take too much at face value and overlook a much longer history spanning both sides of the Atlantic of West Indian Britishness as ‘as an ideal continually betrayed’ (Putnam, 2014). Viewed in this light, the Windrush moment was not simply about the barriers of social and political exclusion in Britain suddenly disabusing ‘loyal’ black Britons of their former affinities. Rather the ‘rude awakening’ was itself an established feature of West Indian protest and critique, containing elements of deep continuity as well as rupture.