#PotW: Democracy or empire? Reflections on the British imperial experience of the First World War – 16 Oct

Event posterThe New Zealand-United Kingdom Link Foundation in association with The Institute of Commonwealth Studies and the Imperial War Museum warmly invites you to the  NZ-UK Link Foundation Inaugural Annual Lecture.

Speaker: Professor Sir Hew Strachan, Chichele Professor of the History of War (All Souls College, University of Oxford)

When George V addressed the British empire shortly after the outbreak of the First World War, he spoke to his ‘subjects’.  Today the countries of the former empire have come to see themselves as having been forced into a war in whose onset they had little or no say.  That is largely true, and the fact that the king did not address his people as citizens reinforces the point.  However, the ‘white’ Dominions had more choice than this narrative suggests.  Their contributions to the imperial war effort were freely made and democratically decided.  And those without their privileges saw the war as an opportunity to earn them by rallying to the defence of the empire.

At the heart of the British rhetoric in 1914 was a paradox.  Britain presented itself as a liberal democracy fighting for the rights of small nations.  Yet, at home its own franchise was the more limited than that of any state in Europe other than Hungary’s, while overseas it controlled an empire which circumscribed the rights of many small nations.  The lecture will show during the war Britain successfully advanced both as a democracy and an empire.  The peace settlement of 1919 simultaneously produced self-determination within Europe and widened the empire outside it.

Venue: Beveridge Hall, School of Advanced Study, University of London.
Senate House, Malet Street, London, WC1E 7H

Date and time: Thursday 16 October 2014, 17:00 – 20:00

Register for free here

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