In the Aftermath of Empire: Post-colonial Careering of Former Colonial Experts

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Research Seminar

Speaker: Joseph M. Hodge,  Associate Professor of History (West Virginia University)

In the Aftermath of Empire examines the careers of former British colonial officials and technical staff, who went on to work subsequently in international development and other related fields overseas. Many individuals went on to become advisers and consultants working for the UN’s Specialized Agencies such as the Food and Agriculture Organization and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (World Bank). Others were employed by the UK’s bilateral aid agencies; the Ministry of Overseas Development (later the Overseas Development Administration) and the Commonwealth Development Corporation. Many also continued to work for a number of years in the former colonial territories after independence under the Overseas Service Aid Scheme (OSAS). The study is based on extensive research compiled over the past ten years in various archival collections including the UK National Archives, the United Nations Careers Records Project and the Oxford Development Records Project at the University of Oxford, and the World Bank Group Archives, as well as interviews, correspondences and papers obtained by the author from over 100 former colonial officials.

One of the main objectives of the study is to deepen our understanding of the transition from late colonialism to the postcolonial epoch by examining how the concerns and visions of the last generation of British colonial officers influenced postcolonial ideas, practices and institutions. It draws on several historiographies to examine the way the history of international development overlaps and intersects with the ends of European colonial empires and the global Cold War. It is a history of the reconfiguration of networks of expertise in the post-Second World War period. It is both extra-imperial/transnational and trans-historical in the sense that the career patterns and work experiences of these former British colonial officials established connections between different places and different times that conventionally have been thought of as separate and distinct geographical spaces or historical periodizations. 

Joseph Morgan Hodge  is Department Chair and Associate Professor of Modern British and British imperial history at West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.  He is author of Triumph of the Expert: Agrarian Doctrines of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism (Athens, OH: Ohio University Press 2007). He is also co-editor along with Brett Bennett of Science and Empire: Knowledge and Networks of Science across the British Empire, 1800-1970 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan 2011), and co-editor with Gerald Hödl and Martina Kopf of Developing Africa: Concepts and practices in twentieth-century colonialism (Manchester University Press, Studies in Imperialism, 2014). He has published several articles in leading historical journals including the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, the Journal of Southern African Studies, Agricultural History, the Journal of Modern European History and Humanity: An International Journal of Human Rights, Humanitarianism, and Development. He teaches both undergraduate and graduate courses in British and British imperial history since 1600, Ideologies of Empire, and Decolonization and the Cold War. He is the recipient of the Eberly College’s 2010-11 Outstanding Researcher Award and 2013-14 Outstanding Teacher Award. He is currently working on a new book project, In the Aftermath of Empire: Late Colonial Experts, Postcolonial Careering and the Decolonization of Development, which explores the subsequent careers of former British colonial officials and technical experts who went on to work for various international organizations like the United Nations and the World Bank, or else for British donor agencies and consultancy firms, after they retired from the colonial service.

Thursday, October 11th2018 (2 to 4 pm)

IEE 39 Av. F. D. Roosevelt, 1050 Bruxelles – Kant Room

No registration required

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