Monday 20 January 2020


Interest in colonial legacy issues has never been greater, not just in the academic world but as the basis for political activism and as an issue in international diplomacy. And a new seminar series from the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICWS) – Legacies of Colonialism in the Modern World – will highlight key issues and strategies.

Animating interest in the subject are concerns that the developing world continues to be adversely affected by these legacies, that its diaspora communities are marginalised and discriminated against, and that a process of ‘decolonisation’ is overdue at a cultural and intellectual level in the former colonising states. The ‘Windrush Scandal’, which involved the detention and deportation of people from Caribbean countries and other areas of the Commonwealth who had settled in the UK entirely legally in the early post-war decades, has focused fresh attention on these issues.

How the legacies of Empire continue to shape the modern world is a central concern of the ICWS, part of the School of Advanced Study (SAS) at the University of London, and it forms an important link between the varied research interests of its staff, students and fellows. And across the School, important new work in this area is being conducted and supported.

This new seminar series, which will run throughout 2020, will explore the broad spectrum of colonial legacy issues, highlighting the work of specialists from a range of discipline areas. We are pleased to be able to announce details of the first seminars in the series, involving leading writers on the subject.

The series opens on 13 February, with a presentation by Professor Robert Gildea from Worcester College, Oxford. A leading historian of modern France and the author of the Empires of the Mind: The Colonial Past and the Politics of the Present, Professor Gildea will be comparing legacies of Empire in Britain and France.

Some commentators have linked Britain’s decision to leave the European to the country’s supposed difficulty in reconciling itself to the loss of Empire. This theme is explored in Rule Britannia: Brexit and the end of Empire (2019) by Sally Tomlinson and Danny Dorling, and we are delighted that Professor Tomlinson will also be speaking in the series on ‘Brexit, education and Empire’.

SAS is also supporting early-career scholars who are conducting ground-breaking research in this area, and the series to highlight some of this work. Like that of Dr Sarah Gandee, a fellow at the Institute of Historical Research currently working on a book project entitled ‘Criminals, Refugees, Citizens: the “Criminal Tribes” and the Decolonising State in India, c. 1920s–1960s’, and on new research examining the development of anti-begging and anti-vagrancy measures and laws in the capital city of Delhi.

Dr Gandee will give a presentation on 'The Postcolonial Legacies of the Criminal Tribes Act in India'. Dr Tripurdaman Singh, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow who recently joined ICWS to work on the Indian Princely States and decolonisation, will chair the session.

In April, we welcome Amelia Gentleman, the Guardian journalist whose articles helped to break the Windrush Scandal. Her important work in telling the stories of the victims of the government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy has been recognised through a series of accolades including the Cudlipp and Paul Foot awards, and the Amnesty impact award. She has also been named Journalist of the Year in the British Journalism Awards and by the Political Studies Association. She will be in conversation with Dr Juanita Cox, an ICWS research officer on its pilot project exploring the relationship of the Windrush generation and the British state.

The inaugural events taking place at Senate House are:

Legacies of colonialism or the persistence of empire? The French and British cases (13 February, 5.30–7.30pm): Robert Gildea, professor of modern history at the University of Oxford and author of Empires of the Mind: the Colonial Past and the Politics of the Present.

Brexit, education and Empire (20 February, 5.30–7.30pm): Sally Tomlinson, emeritus professor at Goldsmiths, University of London, and author of Education and Race from Empire to Brexit and (with Danny Dorling) Rule Britannia: Brexit and the end of Empire.

The Postcolonial Legacies of the Criminal Tribes Act in India (12 March, 5.30–7.30pm): Dr Sarah Gandee, Past and Present Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research. Chaired by Dr Tripurdaman Singh (ICwS).

The Windrush Generation and the hostile environment (23 April, 5.30–7.30pm), Amelia GentlemanGuardian journalist and author of The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment in conversation with Dr Juanita Cox (ICwS and co-founder of Guyana SPEAKS).


For further information, please contact Maureen McTaggart, Media and Public Relations Officer, School of Advanced Study, University of London. / 020 7862 8653. Images available on request.