‘Crossroads of Empire’: South America, the South Atlantic and the British Empire in the long nineteenth century
University of Southampton, 30 November 2013
Scholars increasingly acknowledge the profound connections that existed between Europe and South America in the nineteenth century: economically, culturally, and politically. In their recent collection of essays, Connections after Colonialism, Matthew Brown and Gabriel Paquette have drawn attention to the need for further investigation of these long-standing and durable links. This workshop aims to contribute to that process, but also to extend its focus by exploring the various ways in which colonies and newly independent states in this Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking region, as well as its contiguous maritime spaces, interacted with Britain and its global empire in the long nineteenth century. Papers are invited that will explore this broad theme, and illuminate the links forged and the networks created in the Atlantic south of the Equator, with its volatile mixture of political tensions, strategic locations and economic possibilities.
The workshop will contribute to a number of historiographical debates. In the first instance, it seeks to explore the variety of circumstances and contexts that influenced the ways in which different areas, colonies and countries in South America interacted and engaged with Britain and the British Empire in the nineteenth century. It also seeks to locate British involvement with South America in wider geographical and oceanic contexts by considering the contiguous maritime spaces that connected South America and the South Atlantic to British colonies in the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia via the Cape of Good Hope. By investigating both British and British colonial links with the region, and including the South Atlantic Ocean and its littoral in the same analytical framework, it is hoped that papers will widen the conceptual framework of imperial scholarship. While there have been some excellent comparative studies of the respective empires of Spain and Britain, most notably by J. H. Elliott, there has been relatively little consideration of how the British Empire interacted with the post-colonial context of Spain’s former empire. Finally, the workshop will contribute to the historiography of the Atlantic Ocean. Historians of Britain’s Atlantic World have tended to concentrate their attention on the sea routes and littoral spaces north of the Equator. This workshop aims to redress this imbalance by questioning the limits of that world – conceptually and geographically – and by considering British commercial, political and military activity south of the line.
Key questions might include:
How did the colonies and newly independent countries of South America interact with Britain and the British Empire in the long nineteenth century?
Is it possible to consider this region as an integrated space (economically, politically, culturally)? How did it operate, and what roles did Britain and its colonial empire play in creating this?
In what ways did language and linguistic differences influence commercial, political and diplomatic relations between Britain and the region?
Do anti-colonial and post-colonial networks operate in this space, and how to they interact with established, expanding or contracting imperial systems and connections?
What were the foreign-policy and foreign-relations implications of political change in South America for the British government (ministers, parliamentarians, and civil servants)? How did Britain perceive its role in South America, and to what extent did those perceptions change over the course of the nineteenth century?
How did colonial British relations with South America differ from those of the metropole?
How does British (and British colonial) involvement in South America and the South Atlantic reflect or alter our understanding of a wider British-Atlantic system?
Possible themes for papers might include:
economic, political and military relationships between South America, the South Atlantic, and Britain and its empire;
British diplomatic relations with both colonial regimes and fledgling independent states;
transnational exchanges of goods, people and ideas, and the bypassing of ‘traditional’ metropoles of empire;
imperial, colonial and post-colonial identities;
the language and rhetoric of commerce, politics and diplomacy;
anti-colonial and post-colonial networks;
the roles of migrant and expatriate communities in South American and European societies;
the strategic place of South America and the Southern Atlantic World in British imperial thinking and policy.
The conference is organized by the Centre for Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies, University of Southampton. For further details, see:
To apply, please send an abstract of 300 words outlining the proposed paper’s methodology, sources and significance, together with a short CV, to Dr John McAleer (firstname.lastname@example.org) by 30 June 2013.
Dr. John McAleer
Faculty of Humanities
University of Southampton
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