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Jan Ifversen

Abstract

In March 2020, Melvin Richter, one of the founders of international, conceptual history passed away. This sad occasion makes it timely in our journal to reflect on the process that turned national projects within conceptual and intellectual history into an international and transnational enterprise. The text that follows—published in two parts, here and in the next issue—takes a closer look at the intellectual processes that led up to the founding meeting of the association behind our journal, the History of Concepts Group. It follows in the footsteps of Melvin Richter to examine the different encounters, debates and protagonists in the story of international, conceptual history. The text traces the different approaches that were brought to the fore and particularly looks at Melvin Richter's efforts to bridge between an Anglophone tradition of intellectual history and a German tradition of Begriffsgeschichte.

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Porscha Fermanis

Abstract

Viewing Brexit as part of a longer history of Anglo-Saxon racial and cultural exceptionalism, this article reflects on what Samuel Butler's satirical novel Erewhon, or Over the Range (1872) can tell us about the utopian impulses informing Brexit's neoimperialist ideology and hence about British identity politics today. Set in an inward-looking, socially homogeneous, and postindustrial society somewhere in the colonial southern hemisphere, Erewhon provides an anachronistic simulacrum of both an isolationist “Little England” and an imperial “Global Britain,” critiquing the idea of the self-sufficient, ethnonationalist “island nation” by demonstrating the extent to which it relies on the racial logic of White utopianism, as well as on a disavowal of the non-British labor that supports and sustains it.

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Coda — Pandemic Brexit

Cancelling the Political Future

Bill Schwarz

Abstract

Taking off from a 1940 speech by Winston Churchill, I explore the shifting sensibilities underwriting the twin impact of Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic, suggesting that a component of the current period turns on a disabling incapacity to think about a determinate political future.

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The Concept of Religion in Meiji Popular Discourse

An Analysis of the Newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun

Makoto Harris Takao

Abstract

This article challenges claims that the Japanese neologism shūkyō (as a translation for “religionȍ) lacked an established nature prior to the twentieth century and had little to do with experiences of the urban masses. It accordingly problematizes the term as a largely legal concept, highlighting historical newspapers as underutilized sources that offer insight into Meiji popular discourse and attendant conceptualizations of “religion.” This article endorses a shift in both our chronological understanding of shūkyō's conceptual history as well as its sociocultural mobility. By expanding the milieu understood as being familiar with debates on a range of “religious” issues, this article thereby offers a counter-narrative in which regular use of shūkyō begins to clearly emerge from the mid-1880s, exponentially increasing with the following decades.

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Conceptual Explorations around “Politics”

Thematizing the Activity of Politics in the Plenary Debates of the German Bundestag

Kari Palonen

Abstract

This article discusses the ways of conceptualizing politics in parliamentary debates. When the politics-vocabulary is ubiquitous in them, which kind of speech act lies in emphasizing the political aspect? Focusing on thematized uses allows us to identify conceptual revisions in the politics-vocabulary in digitalized plenary debates of the German Bundestag from 1949 to 2017. My fourfold scheme for conceptualizing politics (polity, policy, politicization, politicking) provides the analytical apparatus. The units of analysis in this study are compound words around politics written as single words, a German language specialty. Their frequency has remarkably risen in the Bundestag debates, and the search engine can easily find them. This research interest allows me to speculate with changes in the understanding and appreciation of politics in postwar (West)Germany

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Dane Kennedy

Abstract

This article examines the enduring influence of Charles Dilke's Greater Britain (1868), which persists today in the ambitions of Brexit's proponents. Dilke characterized Britain as the center of a world system bound together by a common identity. Yet his explanation of that identity was riddled with inconsistencies. While he cast it mainly in racial terms, he also proposed cultural and linguistic criteria. These inconsistencies would complicate the efforts to define and delineate the reach of Greater Britain by those who followed in Dilke's footsteps. This includes the leading Brexiteers who have advanced Greater Britain's modern iteration, the Anglosphere, as an alternative to EU membership.

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From an Economic Term to a Political Concept

The Conceptual Innovation of “Self-Management” in Soviet Estonia

Juhan Saharov

Abstract

The term “economic self-management” (in Estonian, isemajandamine) stood at the center of economic and political debates in Soviet Estonia in 19871988. This article traces its transformation from an economic term to a political concept, reconstructing the intellectual resources that the reformers were drawing on in this process. Navigating the constraints of Soviet discourse, reform-minded academics in Soviet Estonia radically expanded the original meaning of isemajandamine, which ultimately provided an argumentative platform for declaring the republics “sovereignty” within the Soviet Union. The article brings out the linguistic, political, and transnational dimensions of this conceptual innovation, which started in 1987 and was completed when the law on the “economic independence” of the Baltic republics was adopted by the Soviet Union in 1989.

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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.