BLOG: 1919: Repression, Riots and Revolution [Imperial & Global Forum]

Marc-William Palen's picture
Student demonstrators at the University of Malta (Times of Malta: Malta and Me – colonial politics, Il-Gross and university students)

Hillary Briffa
Royal College of Defence Studies

In the spirit of the current global movement for racial justice, many across the UK have raised the need to decolonize history curriculums. In seeking to learn more about the colonial exploitation upon which the British built their empire, 1919 would be an excellent place to start. Given that Sunday, 7 June, marked the commemoration of the Sette Giugno anti-colonial uprising of 1919 in Malta, this year opens a door to understanding oppression in countries as diverse as India, Ireland, Malta, British Honduras (Belize), Egypt and Trinidad – global outposts where colonizers and colonies clashed throughout that fateful year.    

Last year marked the centenary of the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, the most important of the peace treaties which brought the First World War to a close. The end of formal hostilities is often remembered solely for such peace treaties, without considering that their drafting excluded many active participants in the battles of the preceding four years, now yearning for their own liberation. The very term ‘First World War’ highlights the expansive reach of the first total war waged between industrialized world powers whose Empires spanned the globe. The Great War (1914-1918) was globalised and totalised by the inclusion of colonial subjects, and throughout the conflict the French and British empires were mobilised to aid in the Allied war effort. [continue reading at the Imperial & Global Forum]