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Remembering Churchill: fifty years on his opinions still matter



Churchill giving his famous ‘V’ sign public domain via Wikimedia Commons

To mark the 50th anniversary of the death and funeral of Winston Churchill, Cambridge history fellow and Churchill author Dr Warren Dockter, analyses the complex legacy of the wartime leader who is believed by many to be the ‘lion who roared when the British Empire needed him most’.

Winston Churchill is one of the most important and iconic leaders of the 20th Century. His legacy looms large in the British national psyche and commands reverence from all quarters of the globe. The 30th of January marks the 50th anniversary of his state funeral and offers the world a chance to commemorate his memory and celebrate his life. This has already begun at  which acts as a hub that brings together numerous Churchill-related organisations for the year-long celebration which has been entitled, Churchill 2015.

Certainly, 2015 will also feature much debate on Churchill’s memory. Though Churchill undoubtedly resonates more with the Right than the Left, political ideologies will compete to claim his achievements. The Right will celebrate Churchill’s devotion to Britain, free trade, and tradition, while the Left will venerate his championing of social reform during the early 1900s and his inclusive approach to the formation of his wartime government. Regardless of where one sits on the political spectrum, Churchill’s failures (such as the disastrous Dardanelles and Gallipoli campaign) and his more archaic views (such as his support for eugenics and his ill-fated crusade to keep India firmly in the grasp of the British Empire) will also bear some reflection.

Major historical figures often have positive and negative effects which reverberate in history. In Churchill’s case, these effects can at times appear paradoxical. Some of the contradictions in Churchill’s legacy, like his absolute belief in liberty and his steadfast imperialism, might be explained by his long career of public service. He had a Parliamentary career for the better part of a century. His deeply rooted belief in the virtues of imperialism (which is perhaps unsurprising for a man born while Victoria was on the throne) became anachronistic in the context of the post war world. Of course, this mirrors the legacy of British imperialism which is inexorably linked to Churchill’s legacy.

For good or for ill, we continue to grapple with this legacy; finding new applications for it in the 21st century. Churchill’s name has been invoked more than once during our struggles with radical Islamists and in the face of increasingly aggressive Russian foreign policy. ‘What would Churchill do’ or ‘think’ is often asked of historians and politicians. Fifty years after his death, his opinion still matters and that is no small thing.

So as we remember Winston Churchill in this anniversary year, we should also remember that his legacy is a complex one. It should not be approached with rose-tinted nor with jaded glasses. In summary, Churchill’s memory requires more historical analysis to be fully appreciated. That way history can determine if people will say, as Eisenhower said 50 years ago, ‘Here was a champion of freedom.’

Dr Warren Dockter is author of the forthcoming monograph Winston Churchill and the Islamic World: Orientalism, Empire and Diplomacy in the Middle East. He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and gained his PhD at the University of Nottingham in July 2012. He has taught at the Universities of Exeter and Worcester and was an Archives By-Fellow at Churchill College, Cambridge. He is now a Research Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge. His research interest lies in British imperialism in the Middle East during the late 19th and 20th century.

The Naukratis Project


19 ICS_Naukratis_ICS_SAS_report CMYK


One of the most important activities of any SAS Institute is to promote and encourage cutting-edge research and to ensure that the results of projects are given the widest possible circulation among the whole research community and to a wider audience. The Naukratis Project is one example of how the Institute of Classical Studies (ICS) uses its limited funding to do just this.

Given in May 2014 by Naukratis Project members at the British Museum, led by Alexandra Villing, a curator in its Department of Greece and Rome, this lecture was highly successful. It highlighted the
Institute’s important work in publicising new research and fostering debate with implications for many different humanities topics. The Institute is collaborating with the Leverhulme Trust and the British Academy to support this international and interdisciplinary project, which involves some 70 institutions worldwide with contributions from ICS researchers.

Naukratis is a famous archaeological site in the Nile Delta, which was excavated repeatedly in the
19th and 20th centuries, most famously by Sir Flinders Petrie who rediscovered the site in 1884.
Founded in the seventh century BCE and still active into the seventh century CE, the city was an important trading port, having documented connections with 12 different Greek cities, here involved in a unique economic venture on Egyptian soil. Classical scholars have traditionally viewed the site as essentially Greek, in effect a Greek colonial settlement founded, occupied and sustained by Greek traders and settlers, perhaps even against initial Egyptian resistance.

The Naukratis Project aims to reassess this conception critically, combining the work of Classical and Egyptological historians, archaeologists and scientists. At its core is the online publication that, in the virtual space of the internet, reassembles some 20,000 finds from these earlier excavations, distributed
today between some 60 museums worldwide, where they have remained largely unstudied and unpublished. Meanwhile, extensive archival documentation of 19th-century and later excavations makes it possible to recontextualise these finds. The Project’s own new fieldwork at Naukratis is also supplying more vital clues to reconstruct the port’s history and that of its inhabitants.

The lecture showed that this combined research has unearthed quite unexpected conclusions. Far
from being an essentially Greek site, it now seems that Egyptians played an important role from the
very beginning; that there were major Egyptian as well as Greek buildings in the city; and that
many Egyptian finds have been overlooked or at least underestimated in previous work. The site’s
archaeology also demonstrates the close links that this Graeco-Egyptian settlement had with
other regions such as Cyprus and Phoenicia.

These major discoveries raise important issues not only about these cross-cultural interactions,
but also about the practices and preconceptions of scholarship in the humanities: why should
the Greek elements have been so advertised in the past and why should other elements have
been so neglected? One answer could be that 19th-century scholars regularly looked for
Greek achievements everywhere and, as a result, failed to appreciate the achievements of the
highly civilised non-Greek peoples around the Mediterranean. But, in fact rather surprisingly, a
‘Greek agenda’ was still being promoted as much, if not more, by 20th-century scholarship, as by
the 19th-century pioneers.

Research at Naukratis is set to continue, but the project is already contributing to our understanding of how ancient cultures interacted and how modern interpretations of such processes can be affected by changing scholarly perspectives. Supporting and showcasing such fresh approaches, which cross disciplinary boundaries and provoke sensitive issues, provides important opportunities for the ICS to influence research agendas, both in the UK and beyond.

This blog post was originally published in the School of Advanced Study Annual Report and Review 2014 which is available from the School in hard copy or from the SAS website (click here). For more information about the Naukratis Project check out the project pages on the British Museum website.

Image: Re-studying 19th century excavations (top left: 1899) and new fieldwork (top right: 2012) shed
new light on relations between Egypt, Greece and Cyprus (centre: fifth century BCE Cypriot figurine
from Naukratis, Petrie Museum UC16469). © Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, UCL / © Trustees of the British Museum

#PotW: Getting research published – 29 Jan


Roche DG, Lanfear R, Binning SA, Haff TM, Schwanz LE, et al. (2014) Troubleshooting Public Data Archiving: Suggestions to Increase Participation. PLoS Biol 12(1): e1001779. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001779This session with Dr Jane Winters (Institute of Historical Research) will address the process of publication in a variety of academic/professional outlets including digital publication; preparing articles for submission to academic journals, the process of editing, writing book proposals, and (from the perspective of the publisher) turning a thesis into a non-academic book.

Jane recently gave advice on how to get published on the Guardian Higher Education Network. Read the article here.

All welcome, advance booking is required here.

Time: 29 January 2015, 14:00 – 16:00

Venue: Room 243 (Senate House), Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU

Creole music of the French West Indies receives novel investigation  


Flyer Creole Book A5 Print_blogBlack Caribbean musical traditions are rich in variety and the biguine, originating before emancipation, epitomises French Antillean Creole music. In this post Dr John Cowley, senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, discusses his essay ‘Mascarade, biguine and the bal nègre’, which traces the music from its origins in the French Antilles to the upsurge in the genre’s popularity in Paris as a resutl of the Exposition Coloniale in 1931.

La Mascarade (en Françaises), the carnival held on the days immediately preceding Lent (Shrovetide) has been a communal focal point for centuries, especially in countries where the Roman Catholic creed predominates.

In the French Antilles it became a pivot for the intersection and development of Creole African and European performance traditions that began during the brutal period of African bondage and blossomed after the abolition of enforced servitude in 1848. Elements of these developments are explored in ‘Mascarade, biguine and the bal negrè’ essay (printed in French and English) which features in the newly published Creole Music of the French West Indies, A Discography, 1900-1959. The book will be launched on 23 January at Senate House (details below).

Focussing on the city of Saint-Pierre, which was destroyed in 1902 by a volcanic eruption that killed 30,000 people, the essay also examines African-Creole cultural practices that evolved in the course of celebrating the highly prominent carnival. By the end of the 19th century this festival was attracting many visitors from adjacent islands. Although arrested for several years by the annihilation of Saint-Pierre, Martinique’s musical and masquerade traditions have survived. In addition, similar customs existed in the French Antillean territories of Guyane and Guadeloupe and even in the autumn of 1902 a group of Martinique dancers and musicians visited Europe and performed traditional repertoire on the stage to raise funds for victims of the volcanic disaster.

From the turn of the 20th century, if not before, Paris had established itself as one of the world’s cultural melting pots; experimentation and novel artistic endeavour were rife in the periods before, between, and after each of the world wars. The city attracted creative personalities from Europe and the Americas, as well as from the French imperial colonies, including those in Africa and East Asia. Likewise, the City of Light attracted many South American artists who came to learn from, or exchange ideas with, leading practitioners from other continents who were based there.

After the First World War, a community of black migrants from the French West Indies began to congregate in Paris. In 1923, for example, black women from Martinique and Guadeloupe were encouraged by entrepreneurs to come and work as ‘domestics’ in the metropolis. Antilleans were engaged in other enterprises too: during his 1924 stay in Paris the black American writer Langston Hughes took his first job as a doorman at a club on the rue Fontaine run by a Martiniquaise.

In that same year, Jean Rézard des Vouves, a Martinique political hopeful, student, and amateur pianist, rented a back room of a ‘bougnat’ (a small bistro) at 33 rue Blomet (15e), belonging to Monsieur Alexandre Jouve (likewise active politically) and run by an Auvergne native. Des Vouves’ intention was to hold rallies pending his candidature for the French Chamber of Deputies. The political meetings concluded with island-style music-making and dancing.

It was the success of these post-rally relaxations that led to the establishment of the Bal Nègre, or Bal Colonial (it was known by both appellations), at the rue Blomet address, to which Des Vouves thereafter devoted himself.

Living also in the same street (at number 45) were several members of the Surrealist movement. In 1926, when the associated poet and writer Robert Desnoes moved there and wrote a newspaper article about the dance place, the Bal began to become known outside the circle of black French Antillean and Africans who were its regular habitués.

Featuring a variety of dances, including the beguine, the Bal Nègre became a popular location for a diversity of local and visiting terpsichoreans. They included luminaries from the Harlem Renaissance who frequented Paris during the 1920s. The bal Blomet thrived as the centre of the burgeoning popularity of the biguine which was fuelled further by the Exposition Coloniale de Paris in 1931.

Elements of this music and folklore from the Antillean vernacular, together with later developments, are listed in the discography Creole Music of the French West Indies, a work which breaks new ground in the understanding of black music from the Caribbean.

The inventory, arranged alphabetically by performer, commences chronologically with a linguistic sample recorded on cylinder at the Paris Exposition Universelle de 1900. Folktales that were obtained in French islands using the same technique by the anthropologist Elsie Clews Parsons during the 1920s are also itemised — many had musical accompaniment, though the cylinders are lost.

Spearheaded by the first commercial recordings of the idiom, by L’Orchestre Antillais, direction: M. Stellio, almost one third the repertoire recorded commercially by Antillean musicians in Paris between 1929 and 1931 can be traced to political, satirical and marching chants from annual carnivals of the doomed city of Saint-Pierre. Songs from the same corpus were recorded occasionally into the 1950s, expressing the longevity of traditional carnival choruses and their distribution throughout the French Creole-speaking Antilles.

Despite the interruption of the Second World War (1939-1945), Paris remained the centre for the recording of French Antillean music. Following the cessation of hostilities and the beginning of economic recovery, during the 1950s studios in the outre-mer islands began to produce records aimed primarily at local markets reflecting economic and cultural changes in the new era.

The wide-ranging contextual content of Creole Music of the French West Indies — the discographical material gathered in collaboration with two French experts, Alain Boulanger and Marc Monneraye — makes this multidisciplinary work an essential handbook in the growing list of resources designed to explore the evolution of black music in the Americas.

Join us at the launch of Creole Music of the French West Indies, A Discography on 23 January 2015 at 6.00pm, Room 349 (3rd floor), Senate House, South Block, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HU. The event includes a panel discussion and is run in collaboration with the Institute of Latin American Studies (ILAS) and the Institute of Musical Research (IMR).

Dr John Cowley is an independent writer and researcher on vernacular masquerade and music traditions and their relationship to the Americas. Specialising in the Caribbean and North America, his study of the evolution of the Trinidad Carnival – Carnival, Canboulay and Calypso, was published in 1996. His essays appear in scholarly and popular books and periodicals and he compiles and edits CDs for labels such as Smithsonian-Folkways, Rounder and Bear Family Records. 

Fracking protesters accuse police of intimidation campaign


Republished from


From time to time members of the School of Advanced Study  publish about their research on other websites. This post republishes that work from the original article.

By Dr Damien Short and Jessica Elliot

Although only a small area of land has been offered to companies exploring the potential for fracking in the UK so far, much more is likely to come. But opposition to fracking is growing – and growing fast. More than 180 local groups are already in operation, which is somewhat inconvenient for a government wanting to go ‘all out for shale‘. Continue reading →

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