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Global Annual Lecture 'The Treaty of Versailles and Its Discontents: A Centenary Look Back at the Global 1919'

Location: OC0.01, Oculus Building

A global annual lecture by Prof Jeff Wasserstrom, University of California, Irvine.

The year 1919, like 1968, saw protests break out in many different regions. In 1919, again as in 1968, there were clear connections between some of these events, with comparable factors drawing people out onto the streets and similar slogans filling the air in disparate locales, while in other cases the links were tenuous at best. In making the case for the value of taking a global look at 1919, something that has more often been done with 1968, this talk will focus on one set of interconnected upheavals, those in Asia and Egypt that were triggered at least in part by discontent over the terms of the Treaty of Versailles. Some attention will also be paid to other settings, however, such as Seattle, site of a General Strike in 1919. Key themes will include both those Erez Manela explored in his pioneering work The Wilsonian Moment and some that he does not address, such as efforts in various movements for participants to present themselves as continuing in or breaking decisively from past patterns and debates in different settings during the last century over how the historical legacy of 1919 should be understood. It will also explore how with this year, as with so many epochal one, there has been a tendency in national histories to place more emphasis on certain things that happened than others. To cite one example, in China, the focus has been on Beijing events in the month of May and what student activists said and did rather than on the multi-class general strike that paralyzed Shanghai in early June. If successful, the talk will leave members of the audience wondering about how national emphases can shape the way global and comparative work is framed. If more attention was paid in China to what happened in the country's great port on the Yangtze in 1919 rather than in the capital, for example, might it seem more natural than it has been to ponder possible similarities between the Shanghai and Seattle General Strikes?

Discussant: Dr Shirley Ye, University of Birmingham

Tags: Lecture

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