Lunchtime Seminar Series: Tuesday 04th March: Stuart Butler

If you were unable to make Stuart’s seminar and would like to view a copy of the presentation along with a recording of the paper and questions please CLICK HERE

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Stuart Butler

University of Manchester

Performing Decline: tackling hindsight’s
blurred visions of Britain 1959-1970


4th March 2014

1 p.m. – 2 p.m.

Simon Building Room 2.57


Performing Decline: tackling hindsight’s
blurred visions of Britain 1959-1970

Discussions of Britain’s post-war decline have had a significant impact on the writing of British history. Seminal works by Barnett (amongst others) laid the foundation for much of the historiography of Britain’s declining post-war role which we are familiar with today. More recently work by scholars such as Edgerton, Gamble and Tomlinson suggests that historians should think of Britain as ‘becoming more powerful rather than declining.’
Applying this historical hindsight without further examination contributes to the common impression that British decision-making in the period was reactionary or even irrational. There is a difficult duality which this knowledge of decline presents: it must be accepted that Britain was not in decline in the post-war period, however, it must also be accepted that perceptions of decline did effect policy-making.
This paper will question whether the actual or perceived context should be more important in our historical analysis of post-war Britain.

Images: C. Brooker et al, Private Eye’s Romantic England and other unlikely stories, (London, 1963), p. 31.


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