Today we have two abstracts from the Franco-British History seminar held at the Sorbonne, France.  Both sessions look at Empire, in particular the British Empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  However, there the similarities end.  The first paper (held in April last year) looks at cartography, and in particular examines the development of Imperial maps and their role in imagining the British Empire.  The second paper (held in December) examines the views expressed by Sir Winston Churchill on the subject of imperial Britain providing a much more politically-centric view of the Empire in its dying days.

Franco-British History
7 April 2011
Isabelle Avilla (Paris 4)
Cartes du monde britannique, 1885-1914
Translation: British World Maps 1885-1914

What can we tell about British national identity through a study of maps of empire in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century’s?  At a time of growing doubts about the supremacy of Britain in the world; doubts related to both the context of economic depression and international rivalries, as well as events such as the Boer war and the death of Queen Victoria, how were the British depicted on world maps?  Geography and cartography were one way for Britain to retain its hegemonic position in the world.  This new way of thinking about geography and cartography was considered by many geographers as essential to the education of citizens that they lived not on an island but in an empire.  Those British citizens who learnt how to read maps could feel proud to belong to the British nation and enable some to forget their fear that Britain was in decline.

Note: This paper was presented in French


Franco-British History
1 December 2011
Richard Toye (University of Exeter), autour de son livre Churchill’s Empire. The World That Made Him and the World He Made (2010)

‘I have not become the King’s First Minister in order to preside over the liquidation of the British Empire.’ These notorious words, spoken by Churchill in 1942, encapsulate his image as an imperial die-hard, implacably opposed to colonial freedom – a reputation that has prevailed, and which Churchill willingly embraced to further his policies. Yet, as a youthful minister at the Colonial Office before World War I, his political opponents had seen him as a Little Englander and a danger to the Empire. Placing Churchill in the context of his times and his contemporaries, this paper evaluates his position on key Imperial questions and examines what was conventional about Churchill’s opinions and what was unique.