Imperial nostalgia

How the British conquered themselves

Author: Peter Mitchell

This book studies the persistence of imperial memory, nostalgia and culture in contemporary Britain. Focusing on imperial nostalgia as a structure of feeling, it attempts to understand the role it plays in forming and articulating a politics of nationalist reaction, and how it has been mobilised by political actors in promoting emergent right-wing movements. Historicising nostalgia as an inherent part of imperial culture, it argues that the fantasies developed in late Victorian Britain in order to give ideological coherence to the imperial project are to a large extent the same fantasies at play in the current sovereigntist turn. Focusing on the events following the Black Lives Matter protests of 2020 and controversies over freedom of speech and education, it traces how ongoing public debates over histories of slavery and colonialism are put to work within the ‘culture wars’; more broadly, it interrogates the imperial genealogies of contemporary approaches to class, gender, race, nationality and sovereignty.

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