From Empire to Commonwealth and League of Nations:intellectual roots of imperialist internationalism, 1915-1926

Ebbesen, Martha (2019) From Empire to Commonwealth and League of Nations:intellectual roots of imperialist internationalism, 1915-1926. PhD thesis, UNSPECIFIED.

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During the nineteen-tens and -twenties the British Empire was transformed into the British Commonwealth of Nations and the League of Nations was created and began its work. This thesis argues that from the perspective of a loosely defined group of public academics and politicians from the British Empire, here identified as imperialist-internationalists, these two events were dual processes, as they considered both the Commonwealth and the League natural steps of progression from the British Empire of the early twentieth century. By analysing selected perspectives on empires as peacemakers from antiquity to the late nineteenth century and the education of the imperialist-internationalists it is argued that they belonged to an established Western tradition of seeing empires as a positive form of peaceful international organisation. However, like many contemporaries, they were critical of the traditional model of empire where all power was centred in the imperial metropolis as a valid form of international governance. With a focus on their published contributions to the public debate, supported by selected archival material, it is demonstrated how the imperialist-internationalists promoted the existence of what they named the British Commonwealth of Nations before it was given any kind of legal recognition, attributing specific values of democracy and equality to its constituent parts. Likewise, it is demonstrated how they identified the outbreak of World War One as an opportunity to reorganise the world to promote international cooperation, and how they worked to use British imperial experience in the formation of the League and formulation of the Covenant. Finally, it is argued that E.H. Carr’s rejection of the interwar thinkers as utopians was unjust as they tried to use what they thought was an established model. As a consequence, applying Carr’s lens has limited the existing scholarship of several members of the imperialist-internationalists.

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Thesis (PhD)
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26 Sep 2019 12:40
Last Modified:
03 Oct 2023 00:19