Matthew G. Stanard (Berry College) on ‘Histories of Empire, Decolonization, and European Cultures after 1945’, in the recent issue of European History Yearbook (open access), addresses the theme of imperial legacies and the persistence of empire in the former imperial metropoles of Europe through the lens of three recent publications.
It is a timely choice to publish an essay on the topic because there seems to be a generational change. The books in the centre of the article reflect this change, with Bill Schwarz in one group, Elizabeth Buettner in the other, and the volume edited by Kalypso Nikolaïdes, Berny Sèbe, and Gabrielle Maas combining both. The theme treated in Stanard’s essay has been a vibrant field of research over the last quarter of a century, and the study of Empire and its reflection has recently been boosted by an astonishing degree of self-reflective books and articles by some of the foremost practicioners of imperial history. Apart from the book project by Bill Schwarz one could also mention the recently published How Empire shaped us (2016), by Antoinette Burton and Dane Kennedy. Such reflections are about justification as much as they are about securing a legacy, and they indicate that, among other things, the interest in the topic and the paradigms chosen for its analysis have a lot to do with the generational experience of scholars who often had imperial family roots in the empire. This is as true for a defining generation of white male British imperial historians as for those academic and intellectual migrants who articulated their presence in the centre and tried to subvert the dichotomy of colonizer and colonized under the banner of postcolonialism. Continue reading