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Historians who write about emotion in wartime focus mainly on the experiences of front-line soldiers and of civilians under bombardment exposed to life-threatening events. However, in Britain in World War II, conscription, mobilization, and evacuation inflicted hugely disruptive separations on a large proportion of the population, and the emotions that they provoked have been under-examined. This paper excavates emotion in an unusually complete set of letters written by a British working-class couple between 1941 and 1946. Interpreting letter writing as a technology of the self, it explores their letter-writing practices and uses psychoanalytic theory to comprehend the anxieties that their letters document. Wartime and postwar separation, enforced by conscription, challenged their aspirations to a companionate marital style and added to the complexities of pregnancy and parenthood. The sickness and hospitalization of their baby in 1945–46, in the era before the establishment of the National Health Service, introduced a new dimension to separation. Occurring at a time when the couple were even further apart geographically than during the war itself and letters were the only regular means of connection, this trauma imposed massive marital and, particularly, maternal strain. By analyzing and contextualizing the increasingly fraught exchanges between a mother on her own and a man at the front line, this article throws new light on epistolary constructions of anxious separations and emotional dislocations in the long Second World War.
This article explores a sizable and largely unknown manuscript treatise from the 1670s, “Pax et Obedientia,” which discusses the Civil Wars, trade, the origins of government, toleration, plantations (especially Jamaica), and the royal supremacy, embedding within it a distinctive engagement with Hobbes and a particular vision of imperial composite monarchy. This first analysis of what “Pax” said, who wrote it, and why he did so in the way that he did nuances the present understanding of Restoration debates over a centralizing empire; it reveals the different forms that policy makers thought that empire might take, while also capturing a moment of transition between different meanings of imperium. The anonymous author's engagement with Hobbes further suggests how questions that later fell into the realm of political economy were discussed at the time, using the language of natural jurisprudence. In demonstrating the methodological necessity of utilizing both linguistic and institutional contexts, the authors argue that the apparent incoherence of “Pax” reflects an essential although ineptly executed strategy on the part of its author. Inchoate though the manuscript is, it offers a significant opportunity to understand the intellectual world of junior members of the government and to reconsider the intersection of political thinking and political action.
Napoleon III's 1860s intervention in Mexico mystified some British observers. For many others, however, it raised urgent questions about the duties of European civilization and the future of global order. This article argues that the affair forced attitudes toward other European countries' overseas imperial projects into sharp political focus, and that in doing so it revealed incipient shifts in the center of gravity of Victorian liberalism. France's Second Mexican Empire split opinion in the Liberal Party and press, throwing light on wider disputes about the parameters of legitimate imperial intervention, the reach of the principles of nationality and self-determination, the political needs of disordered multiracial polities in less-developed parts of the world, and Europe's proper relations with Spanish America. But most Liberals who engaged with the enterprise condemned it, a fact that lays bare a changing balance of power between what historians have called “liberal imperial” and noninterventionist arguments in the 1860s. The failure of the intervention, moreover, did much to affirm powerful partisan narratives about French politics, which helped to buttress the electoral ascendancy of the Liberal Party.
Much has been made of the ideological connection between the mental world of servitors in Elizabethan Ireland and the origins of early English colonial endeavor in North America. In this vein, the case of Sir Ralph Lane, the first governor of the Roanoke colony and, later, muster-master general of Ireland, would seem to present a historiographically promising test case, one that might not only link Ireland and the Roanoke Colony but also could show, following recent suggestions, how attitudinal, behavioral, and aspirational commonalities existed between early modern English military culture and the ethos of early English colonial endeavor. Lane's record on both sides of the Atlantic, however, rather than painting a picture of the applicability of martial virtue and military discipline at times of crisis, demonstrates instead the stark reality of the impulsive and appetitive culture of the garrison in the Elizabethan period and its corrosive effects. Lane's remarkable capacity for corruption, willful mismanagement, and wily self-defense in an Irish context in fact amplifies and complements troubling tendencies that scholars have recently detected in Lane's famous discourse of his government in what was commonly termed Virginia printed in Hakluyt's Principal Navigations. Lane can indeed serve as an emblem of common features shared by Elizabethan Englishmen drawn to office in Ireland and Elizabethan/Jacobean Englishmen drawn to settle in Virginia, but largely because of his mendacity, venality, and irresponsibility.
Attempted assassinations have only rarely been given sustained and systematic attention by historians. This article focuses on a series of attempts to assassinate members of the British royal family across the nineteenth century. In exploring the responses of political elites and wider publics to these attacks, the author argues for the development of a robust and enduring script with which to navigate physical attacks on the sovereign and his or her family. Overall, this script tended to support the monarchy by articulating visions of the proper relationship between crown and people and contrasting these with political regimes in Europe and elsewhere. It also, however, served to highlight some of the key tensions within a modernizing institution between accessibility and publicity on the one hand and security on the other.
In 1919, a parliamentary act reconstructed the relations between the British state and the Church of England. The passage of this act had considerable constitutional, political, ecclesiastical, and religious significance, and it is best understood by considering all of these aspects together. The church obtained a new statutory status, a large degree of self-government, and a special legislative procedure that augmented the privileges of its ecclesiastical establishment. All this was achieved without the intense political struggles that had accompanied many church and state issues during the previous hundred years. The apparent ease of the Enabling Act's passage was symptomatic of transformations in the relationship between the Church of England and nonconformity, in public religion, and in the character of British politics. But it was also the outcome of an impressive feat of persuasion and organization. Although the act did not secure the intended degree of spiritual independence, as became painfully evident during the parliamentary prayer book crisis in 1927–28, it placed the church establishment in a more secure position, allowing it to reform its administration and finances and to gain further advantages and new forms of relevance in future years.
This is the revised transcript of a roundtable on the death of Queen Elizabeth II, presented at the North American Conference on British Studies in Chicago in November 2022. It includes an account of the many meanings of Queen Elizabeth II for her subjects and discussion of why so many at home and in the Commonwealth were devoted to her. The panel also touches on the significance for the monarchy of Elizabeth's passing, the meaning of queenship, and the importance of Elizabeth's gender for British women. An account of the queen and the Commonwealth focuses particularly on imperial optics and the queen's desire to be seen as the ruler of the Commonwealth. The panel concludes with the personalized account of a transnational scholar regarding the degree to which the media manufactured the appearance of grief over the queen's passing.