Erik Linstrum, "Age of Emergency: Living with Violence at the End of the British Empire" (Oxford UP, 2023)
Manage episode 377256429 series 3427390
When uprisings against colonial rule broke out across the world after 1945, Britain responded with overwhelming and brutal force. Although this period has conventionally been dubbed "postwar," it was punctuated by a succession of hard-fought, long-running conflicts that were geographically diffuse, morally ambiguous, and impervious to neat endings or declarations of victory. Ruthless counterinsurgencies in Malaya, Kenya, and Cyprus rippled through British society, molding a home front defined not by the mass mobilization of resources, but by sentiments of uneasiness and the justifications they generated.
Age of Emergency: Living with Violence at the End of the British Empire (Oxford UP, 2023) traces facts and feelings about violence as torture, summary executions, collective punishments, and other ruthless methods were employed in "states of emergency." It examines how Britons at home learned to live with colonial warfare by examining activist campaigns, soldiers' letters, missionary networks, newspaper stories, television dramas, sermons, novels, and plays. As knowledge of brutality spread, so did the tactics of accommodation aimed at undermining it. Some contemporaries cast doubt on facts about violence. Others stressed the unanticipated consequences of intervening to stop it. Still others aestheticized violence by celebrating visions of racial struggle or dramatizing the grim fatalism of dirty wars. Through their voices, Erik Linstrum narrates what violence looked, heard, and felt like as an empire ended, a history with unsettling echoes in our own time.
Vividly analyzing how far-off atrocities became domestic problems, Age of Emergency shows that the compromising entanglements of war extended far beyond the conflict zones of empire.
Ran Zwigenberg is an associate professor at Pennsylvania State University.
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