On January 17th 2020 I delivered the keynote lecture at the Political Studies Association Schools Day at the University of Warwick. The theme of the event was the politics of imperial legacies. My talk was entitled 'How should we deal today with the legacy of the British Empire', and it focused specifically on how young people position themselves in relation to the British Empire, when their history curriculum at school tells them one thing and their consciences often tell them something else entirely. In particular, we discussed how a number of British universities are attempting to confront their own history of benefiting from donations from slave traders, plantation owners, tobacco merchants and the like. Technology was used for the lecture which enabled the students to engage through anonymous voting, sometimes in relation to questions of fact (where they had to guess the most likely answer, as they could not have been expected to know it) and sometimes in relation to questions of opinion (where they could also guess how everyone else had voted before the answers were revealed on the screen).
On June 6th 2019 I delivered the keynote lecture at the Political Studies Association Schools Day at the University of Warwick. The theme of the event was the politics of the future. My talk was entitled 'Democracy and Intergenerational Justice', and it focused specifically on how young people understand the mandate that was delivered for the UK to withdraw from membership of the European Union in a decision over which they had no say. In particular, we debated the possibility of moving towards a voting system in one-off events such as referendums whereby votes would be weighted proportionately according to how long you could be expected to live with the consequences of the result.
On December 18th 2018 I was involved in the Departmental organisation of what, we are told, was the biggest ever off-campus Widening Participation event in Warwick's history. The event was staged at the British Museum in London, and we had almost 150 Year 11 and Year 12 students attend. It was called 'The Politics of Memorialisation', and I spoke to the theme 'Memorialisation through Speech: The Politics of Apologising for the British Empire'. It was fitting that this talk took place in the British Museum, where a number of the exhibits are now deemed controversial because they came to the UK as a direct consequence of Empire. The day included a tour of the Museum conducted by our undergraduate student ambassadors, who showed the participating school students the Elgin Marbles, the Rosetta Stone and Hoa Hakananai'a, all of which have been the subject of ongoing campaigns for repatriation from people who treat their presence in the UK as evidence of imperial plunder. My talk triggered a heated debate amongst the students about the rights and wrongs of issuing historical apologies for actions that were undertaken in other times and under the influence of a very different system of morals to the one in place today. The debate itself has had an important afterlife, as it has sparked more invitations to schools to provide talks and more invitations to engage with school-aged students on the continually controversial question of how Britain made international markets for itself through Empire.
On October 2nd 2018 I was invited back to my old school following my visit in May. The students had asked me to come back to talk about Brexit, and I delivered a new session on 'Brexit and Democracy' that I had worked up specifically for them. I spoke to over fifty sixth-formers, and I will be going back again very soon.
On July 11th 2018 I delivered the same lecture twice to the Sixth Form Applicants Open Day at the University of Birmingham School. The lecture was entitled 'The Politics of Statues', and I focused in particular on the statues that the students were likely to see around them in Birmingham and how they relate to patterns of political protest that have developed around public artworks in recent years.
On March 9th 2018 I delivered a lecture entitled 'The 'History Wars': How Should the History of the British Empire be Taught in Schools?' to Year 12s at King Edward VI College in Nuneaton. 65 students attended the lecture and then stayed as we outlined this year's Colonial Hangover competition.
The 2018 Colonial Hangover project for my Department's Widening Participation schools began with a full day of events on January 26th. This year's competition was introduced to the students, along with the list of milestones that will help them to develop their entries under the guidance of our undergraduate student ambassadors. I delivered the opening lecture for the day, called 'The British Empire and the 'History Wars' over the English School Curriculum'. Over seventy students were in attendance during the day.
I spent some time duing the summer of 2017 giving lectures to school-age students on my Department's Colonial Hangover Widening Participation project. On June 30th I was asked to deliver the opening keynote lecture to the Colonial Hangover Conference, which brought together A-level students with whom we had been working over the course of the year and our own undergraduates to whom we wanted to give experience of operating in an academic conference-like environment. On August 8th I gave the first two lectures to my Department's Sutton Trust Summer School, which was run throughout the week on the Colonial Hangover theme. The first lecture was entitled, 'The Politics of Imperial Names', the second 'The Imperial Politics of the Built Environment'.
Along with my Department's Widening Participation Officer, Shahnaz Akhter, I launched the Colonial Hangover project at a Schools Day event we ran for Year 12 students on January 17th 2017. The project will run for the whole year and will invite the participating students to reflect on the images of empire that they continue to find around them on a day-to-day basis. It picks up on an increasing sense that the British Empire might well have been formally disbanded, but that assumptions about empire continue to shape our everyday experiences. This has perhaps never been more amply demonstrated than in the vision of Britain's place in the world that animated the Leave campaign at the 2016 EU referendum and that now provides the dominant imagery for Theresa May's preferred account of what a post-Brexit Britain might look like.
Assisted by our undergraduate student research assistants Taznema Khatun and Jonas Eberhardt, we also put on a Colonial Hangover conference on June 30th 2017. This was designed to allow our schools competition winners to present their work - both essays and spoken word pieces - in an environment in which they could interact with our undergraduates and learn more about university life from the latter's presentations. It proved to be an exhilarating day in which all of the students took the opportunity to really talk about themselves, their experiences of the legacies of empire and what it means to live in a society that continues to be dominated by assumptions of white privilege. Recordings from the day will shortly be available.