Violence, Liberalism, and the End of the British Empire

Scottish soldiers in service of the British Army, Second Boer War, 1899. Photo credits: Imperial War Museums UK. 

On Thursday 14 September the CRG Rethinking African History will host Harvard’s Pulitzer Prize winning Prof. Caroline Elkins (Harvard University). She will be giving a talk based on her new book 'Legacy of Violence: A History of the British Empire'

Systematic violence was a hallmark of Britain's imperial rule throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, and its most extreme forms were made manifest during Britain's recurring counter-insurgency operations. Beginning in the Victorian period through the post-World War II era, British officials wrestled with the coercive measures deemed necessary to suppress colonial rebellions, questioning their legitimacy and necessity and ensuring they cleaved to the empire’s rule of law. Over time, detention without trial, forced migrations, and various forms of systematic torture, among other tactics, were deployed to suppress anti-colonial uprisings and maintain British rule. Drawing upon examples – including South Africa, Ireland, Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, and Cyprus – Prof. Elkins will examine how and why systematic violence developed and moved across the British Empire, how it was legally enabled, and the ways in which this violence was understood and legitimated in the empire and at home.

To register, please send an email to Dr John Kegel.

Caroline Elkins is a Professor of History and African and African American Studies at Harvard University, USA. Her current research interests include colonial violence and post-conflict reconciliation in Africa, and violence and the decline of the British Empire. She is currently working on two projects: one examining the effects of violence and amnesia on local communities and nation-building in post-independent Kenya; the other analyzing British counter-insurgency operations after the Second World War, with case studies including Palestine, Malaya, Kenya, Cyprus, and Nyasaland.



Date, time and location

14 September 2023
17.00 - 18.30
Pieter de la Courtgebouw / Faculty of Social Sciences, Wassenaarseweg 52, 2333 AK Leiden
Room to be announced