Best of Enemies? Anglo-German Relations and Empire.

Matthew Fitzpatrick's picture
Call for Papers
November 15, 2022
American Samoa, Australia
Subject Fields: 
Colonial and Post-Colonial History / Studies, German History / Studies, British History / Studies, Modern European History / Studies, World History / Studies

Best of Enemies? Anglo-German Relations and Empire.

Conference to be Held at Flinders University (City Campus), Adelaide, Australia.

22-23 June 2023.

Call for Papers closes 15 November 2022

Histories of Anglo-German relations prior to 1914 have frequently emphasized escalating and unbridgeable divisions between the two powers and posited that these tensions were the primary cause of the First World War. This view has led to an assumption that the conflict exemplifies the attendant risks of an ascending power confronting an established one, and that one of the key ‘lessons of history’ is that war under such circumstances is in some way near inevitable. This ahistorical fallacy of path dependency and inevitable conflict has not only had historiographical consequences, but contemporary policy consequences as well, with Anglo-German relations seen by scholars of international relations as a primary historical exemplar of the so-called `Thucydides trap.´ Recent attempts by historians to reassess this view by introducing more complicated accounts of the causes of war and of Anglo-German relations have remained bafflingly controversial.

At the same time, descriptions of nineteenth and early twentieth century imperialism as primarily a force for `Anglobalisation´ has seen a similarly hazardous oversimplification of the complex imperial relations between Britain, Germany and other expansionist powers (such as France, Russia, Japan, the Netherlands and the United States). It has also stripped away the agency and impact of the peoples whose territories were targeted for imperial expansion and who responded in ways that clearly shaped their own historical trajectories and the shape of colonial relations.

Not only at the commanding heights of politics and economics, but also at the grass roots, relations between British subjects, Germans subjects, colonized peoples and other expansionist powers were often marked by cooperation, integration and forms of conflict that did not simply cleave to national differences. With a view to bringing into sharper focus the complexities and multidirectional sets of imperial relations that the historical paradigm of the Anglo-German antagonism obscures, this conference will challenge the ‘Thucydides trap’ reading of the past by bringing together historians of the British and German empires with scholars of other colonial empires and colonized peoples to examine the transimperial connections and relationships that complicate the simple story of global British hegemony coming under threat from an ascendant Germany.

The convenors invite papers dealing with:

  • Histories of political, economic, diplomatic and military cooperation and competition between the British and the Germans in non-European settings.
  • Indigenous attempts to manage and direct relations with and between the British and the Germans.
  • Multidirectional imperial relations and entanglements between the British, the Germans and other imperial powers.
  • The experience of German subjects (including settlers, missionaries, scientists and sojourners) in British colonies, and of British subjects in German colonies, and / or their relationship with colonized peoples.
  • The cooperation, resistance and revolt of colonized peoples in British and / or German territories.
  • Cultural, domestic and scientific relationships between the British and the Germans beyond Europe.
  • The effects of World War One on Anglo-German relations and broader imperial connections.

Abstracts of no more than 300 words, plus a short biography of no more than 150 words should be sent to before 15 November 2022.