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Introduction

When Was Brexit? Reading Backward to the Present

Antoinette Burton

Abstract

This introductory article lays out the stakes of thinking through the temporalities of Brexit history across multiple fields of vision. It makes the case for books as one archive of Brexit subjects and feelings, and it glosses all the articles in the special issue.

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Stuart Ward

Abstract

J. G. A. Pocock's magnum opus, The Machiavellian Moment, seems an unlikely contender as an intimation of Brexit. Published in 1975, his study of the revival of classical Republicanism in Renaissance Italy and the struggle to uphold a universal ideal of active citizenship could not be further removed from Britain's departure from the European Union forty-five years later. But the wider production context suggests that it might be worth probing the possible connections. This article examines Pocock's protracted reckoning with Britain's entry into the European Economic Community in the early 1970s amid the ruptures of empire's end. It seeks to tease out the existential underpinnings not only of the latter-day exigencies of leaving but also of the persistent habit of harnessing that ambition to a reimagining of Britain's global coordinates.

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Must Labour Lose?

The 1959 election and the politics of the people

Charlotte Lydia Riley

Abstract

This article explores Mark Abrams, Richard Rose, and Rita Hinden's 1960 publication Must Labour Lose? in order to demonstrate that contemporary debates around British identity and political culture are nothing new. The concerns about political, party, and national identity in this book clearly prefigure 2016 debates about Britain, not least because a specific question—how to vote—became a conversation about a broader set of ideals. This article explores how Must Labour Lose? constructed an image of British politics in 1959. It interrogates its silences around racial identity and argues that we must read race into this book and others like it. And it concludes that research like this enables a much wider understanding of the British electorate than simply how they voted.

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Marc Matera

Abstract

The lead-up to and the aftermath of the 2016 referendum on the United Kingdom's membership in the European Union have been characterized by particular psychic reactions and affective states: shock, perplexity, anxiety, guilt, paranoia, anger, depression, delusion, and manic elation. The debate over Brexit has played out largely in an affective register. Scholars and journalists in search of explanations have reached for psychological concepts such as amnesia and have cited feelings, specifically nostalgia and anger, as major factors. Paul Gilroy's Postcolonial Melancholia provides a more useful analytical framework for constructing histories of Brexit beyond the usual narratives of reversal, unexpected rupture, or liberation, and for unearthing the psychic attachments and affective dynamics underlying such narratives. Gilroy's conception of postimperial melancholia allows us to see the links between Brexit, anti-immigrant racism, and the obsession with national identity, and the unacknowledged and ongoing legacies of empire and decolonization in contemporary Britain.

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Antoinette Burton

Abstract

Barbara Pym's fiction has been viewed as an anthropological approach to the social mores of postwar Britain. In this article, I use one of her last novels, Quartet in Autumn, to sharpen that reading to think through how Pym articulated an aesthetics of decline by trumpeting the dying world of the White English spinster. Quartet fictionalizes the agony of what Ramon Soto-Crespo calls “decapitalized Whiteness,” that is, where economic loss and a sense of racial disenfranchisement go hand in hand. The transatlantic desire it satisfied for a world that was lost yet redeemable through good old-fashioned English “women's” literature prefigures the nostalgia for a preglobal Britain that has underwritten much of Brexit's affective appeal.

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“To Tell It as We Know It”

Black Women's History and the Archive of Brexit Britain

Kennetta Hammond Perry

Abstract

This article takes Beverley Bryan, Stella Dadzie, and Suzanne Scafe's The Heart of the Race (1985) as an invitation to consider the conditions that routinely mark formulations of Brexit Britain as they operated in the lives of Black women in Britain during the early 1980s. It explores how the text engages Black women's lives as an index of how the welfare state was both structured and experienced in such a way that demarcated racialized internal borders of Britishness, citizenship, and belonging. It also argues for the importance of embedding Black women's narratives into histories of Brexit's unfolding.

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When Cosmopolitans Get Ahead

W. T. Eady's I.D.B. or The Adventures of Solomon Davis (1887)

Danielle Kinsey

Abstract

The anticosmopolitanism that Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May endorsed as a guiding ideology of Brexit has a long history in British discourse. This article links the anticosmopolitanism alive in Brexit to late-nineteenth-century antisemitism, racism, and antiglobalization by examining the content, context, and reception of W. T. Eady's I.D.B. or The Adventures of Solomon Davis (1887). As an effort to lampoon diamond magnate Barney Barnato's rise in society, the novel throws up warnings about how deserving English will be impoverished when Jewish immigrants and other so-called “cosmopolitans” take advantage of the mobilities enabled by British entanglements with the larger world. The novel shows how fears of globalization and European immigration comingled with a racialized sense of Englishness, all intimations of Brexit discourse.

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Nikolaos Mavropoulos

Abstract

In the wake of Italy's unification, the country's expansionist designs were aimed, as expected, toward the opposite shore of the Mediterranean. The barrage of developments that took place in this strategic area would shape the country's future alliances and colonial policies. The fear of French aggression on the coast of North Africa drove officials in Rome to the camp of the Central Powers, a diplomatic move of great importance for Europe's evolution prior to World War I. The disturbance of the Mediterranean balance of power, when France occupied Tunisia and Britain held Cyprus and Egypt, the inability to find a colony in proximity to Italy, and a series of diplomatic defeats led Roman officials to look to the Red Sea and to provoke war with the Ethiopian Empire.

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Introduction

Cultural Heritages and Their Transmission

Elizabeth C. Macknight

This Spring 2021 issue of Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques is about cultural heritages and their transmission, focusing on the period from the middle of the eighteenth century to the present. An important stimulus for the creation of the issue was the European Year of Cultural Heritage (EYCH) in 2018. There were four main themes for the EYCH: protection, engagement, sustainability, and innovation. National coordinators and local organizers of events and initiatives across the continent adopted the unifying slogan “Our Heritage. Where the past meets the future.” The articles brought together here serve as an invitation to readers to continue reflecting on subjects and questions that were at the heart of planning for and supporting public participation in EYCH 2018. The European Year of Cultural Heritage provided myriad opportunities to discover the roles played by individuals and groups in the preservation and valorization of natural sites and landscapes, public monuments, cultural institutions, artifacts, digital resources, and intangible cultural heritage. It highlighted educational initiatives to raise awareness of multiple, diverse cultural heritages within communities and to promote intercultural dialogue. It pushed governments and nongovernmental organizations to address matters of financial investment, legal accountability, partnership management, and the shaping of policies on conservation and ownership rights. It challenged professional historians as well as archivists, librarians, archeologists, conservators, and curators to think hard about widening access and about ways of integrating local, national, and international perspectives when communicating with audiences about surviving traces of the past.

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Manufacturing Labor Discipline

Apprenticeship, Asymmetrical Knowledge, and Large-Scale Production in Britain and France, 1750–1820

Leonard N. Rosenband

Abstract

Josiah Wedgwood, the Montgolfier family, and Samuel Bentham were leading producers during the early industrial era. A pottery manufacturer, a family of papermakers, and the Inspector-General of Britain's Naval Works, they all occupied the highest perch in their fields. This article considers the efforts by these eminent figures to control the exercise and reproduction of skill in their shops. It examines their attempts to build internal labor markets and blend carefully trained, home-grown hands with novel systems of work discipline and fresh technologies. In doing so, this article assesses the success and limits of the entrepreneurial trio's designs in the coming of mechanized production.