Mile End Institute

Questioning Decline: Britain and the World After 1945

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11 April 2016

Time: 9:30am
Venue: Map Room, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, London

Every student of post-war Britain is familiar with the idea of “decline”.

It is a concept that has been used to describe and analyse a variety of aspects of British history, including decolonisation, diminishing diplomatic and military influence, gradual erosion of cultural and industrial exports, and a stagnating domestic economy plagued by industrial dispute and heavy debt.

The notion of “decline” is so commonplace in twentieth-century British historiography that it seems reasonable to ask:  can historians even talk about Britain in this period without producing a narrative of “decline”?

Read James Southern's blog on the conference


Keynote: Professor David Reynolds

Panel 1: Postwar Britain Introspects
Sara Hiorns (QMUL): ‘Women doctors, hard cash, and bullshit bingo: How did the Foreign Office deal with change, 1970-1990?’;
Paul Stocker (Teesside University): ‘National decline, international conspiracy: the postwar radical right in Britain, 1946-1967’;
Josh White (UCL): ‘Declinism in punk and the national press in 1970s Britain’.
Chair: Dr Robert Saunders (QMUL)

Panel 2: Soft Diplomacy and Special Relations
Todd Carter (University of Oxford): ‘An unshakeable commitment? Britain, America & National Liberation in Southern Africa in the 1970s’;
Dan Feather (Liverpool John Moores University): ‘Maintaining influence and halting the decline in ‘liberalism’: British Council Scholarships to the Republic of South Africa, 1961-65’;
Darius Wainwright (University of Reading): ‘Britain’s approach to Iran and wider British foreign policy, 1971-79’.
Chair: Dr Luke Gibbon (FCO Historians)

Panel 3: The Falklands War and Other "Dots on the Map": New Directions in the Decline Debate
John Bagnall (Newcastle University): ‘Continental relations: Britain and Europe through the Falklands crisis, 1982-1990’;
Matthew Jones (Keele University): ‘Popular understanding of decline during and after the 1982 Falklands conflict: evidence from Mass Observation and focus groups';
James Brocklesby (Liverpool John Moores University): ‘Remnants of Empire and Britain’s place in the post-colonial world’.
Chair: Dr Mathias Haeussler (University of Cambridge)

Closing Roundtable: “Decline in Conversation”: Dr James Ellison (chair); Lord Hennessy of Nympsfield; Dr Sue Onslow; Professor Patrick Salmon.