Enoch Powell and the Making of Postcolonial Britain
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- Author: Camilla Schofield, University of East Anglia
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In this radically revisionist reading of the life and political career of Enoch Powell, Camilla Schofield follows Powell's trajectory from an officer in the British Raj to the centre of British politics and then his turn to Ulster Unionism. She argues that Powell and the mass movement against black immigration that he inspired shed important new light on Britain's Second World War generation, popular understandings of the welfare state and the significance of memories of war and empire in the making of postcolonial Britain. Using Powell's own papers and correspondence, she sets Powell within a political generation who had witnessed or were affected by the hardships of the interwar years, the bombing of cities at war as well as the last gasps of British imperial power. Through Powell's life in politics, she illuminates the complex relationship between British social democracy, racism and the domestic politics of imperial decline in Britain.Read more
- Unlike previous biographies of Powell, uses Powell's life and political work as a means to understanding the broader social and political changes of the time
- Examines Powell's own papers and the thousands of letters he received from the British public
- Demonstrates how 'Powellism' worked to rewrite the meaning of the war as a myth of white sacrifice and victimisation
Reviews & endorsements
"Just when one thinks Enoch Powell lies dead and buried, like a traumatic memory back he comes, hitting the headlines and vibrating across the airwaves. In poised, incisive prose Camilla Schofield explains why this is so. Drawing on exemplary research she places Powell back in the history which made him."
Bill Schwarz, Queen Mary University of LondonSee more reviews
"Camilla Schofield offers an original and arresting antidote to what, sadly, remains the conceptually unimaginative and overly compartmentalized historiography of post-1945 Britain. She cleverly tracks the myriad ways in which social class, race and nation were intrinsically linked, not merely in Powell’s over-heated fantasies of social disorder, but in British postwar politics and culture more generally. One great strength of this study is its recognition of the fact that political meaning cannot be divorced from private histories, not merely in terms of Powell’s own biography, but in the highly personalized and performative acts of writing undertaken by the thousands of ordinary Britons who wrote to him to endorse his vision of a national polity in crisis. Most critically of all, Schofield provides further evidence of the benefits to be accrued from recognizing the fundamental interconnectedness between the histories of, on one hand, the experience and memory of World War Two and, on the other, Britain’s prolonged and traumatic transition to a post-colonial society."
Martin Francis, University of Cincinnati
"This ground breaking book scrutinizes Enoch Powell as a figure in history - as a figure through which the reader has a sense of what it was like for someone of his generation (and generation is of critical importance) to live through and contribute to the shaping of a time of significant change in Britain."
Sonya Rose, University of Michigan
"This is the definitive account of Enoch Powell's poisonous politics. It is as welcome as it is overdue. Schofield's illuminating corrective to the hagiography that has dominated analysis of his contributions so far is as welcome as it is overdue. He emerges here as both avatar and architect of Britain's postimperial pathologies."
Paul Gilroy, Kings College London
"… provides a definitive and corrective account of Enoch Powell the man … Schofield shows that Powell’s influence in British politics began before and extended well beyond the "Rivers of Blood" speech."
Michael Higgs, Race and Class
"In this excellent study, Camilla Schofield shows how Powell’s politics were both defined by his historical moment - by the experiences of war and colonialism, postwar, and postcolonialism - and definitive in bringing these moments together, reworked into a new populist politics of race that challenged the existing consensus on race relations and the Commonwealth."
Rob Waters, Twentieth Century British History
"This is an engaging, thought-provoking book … Schofield is to be commended for bringing a fresh approach to a subject often associated with a single event. Her account of Powell situates him firmly in the international and domestic matters of the post-war period as a whole and demonstrates the ways in which he came to articulate the fears and anxieties of those equally disturbed by a changing nation and world."
Amy Whipple, Reviews in History
'Schofield’s biography is vital to rethinking the periodisation of twentieth-century British history, re-evaluating the notion of ‘rupture’ between the war and its aftermath, and usefully bringing together decades that are often severed from one another. She aids us in understanding the full arc of post-war British history, including the radicalisation of British politics in the 1980s. She dissects the relationship between Powellism and Thatcherism, charting how Powellism made Britain ready for Thatcher’s crusade … this is a book of exceptional power and promise, which deserves the widest possible audience.' Jordanna Bailkin, The English Historical Review
'[A] penetrating study.' Times Literary Supplement
'Written with clarity and insight …' New Statesman
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- format: Adobe eBook Reader
- isbn: 9781107439115
- availability: This ISBN is for an eBook version which is distributed on our behalf by a third party.
Table of Contents
1. Conservative war, 1938–47
2. Liberal war, 1947–60
3. Without war? Commonwealth and consensus
4. The war within, 1968–70
5. Naming the crisis
Postscript: Enoch Powell and Thatcherism.
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