28/10/2014 Seminar: 'C.L.R. James's Intellectual Conquest of Imperial Britain'

Published: 7 November 2014

Seminar: 'C.L.R. James's Intellectual Conquest of Imperial Britain'

17.15-19.00, Lilybank House Seminar Room, Bute Gardens, University of Glasgow


Christian Høgsbjerg (University of York): ‘”To Exploit a Larger World to Conquer”: C.L.R. James's Intellectual Conquest of Imperial Britain’ 

(co-organised by the Socialist Theory and Movements research network and the department of Sociology)


About the talk: Together with other critical Pan-Africanist figures such as his fellow compatriot George Padmore, the black Trinidadian revolutionary socialist - and former cricket correspondent for the Glasgow Herald - C.L.R. James led from the front as an ideological agitator in the fight against British imperialist mythology and propaganda during the 1930s: “Traditional England was under fire. And it was the regular habit of a number of us colonials to go to public lectures and meetings of some of the most celebrated lecturers and speakers in England and at question time and during discussion tear them to pieces.” This paper will explore how James - a black colonial subject turned from an identification with ''imperial Britishness'' to a more radical transnational identification with black people internationally – militant Pan-Africanism – after arriving in depression-hit Britain in 1932, and orientated from liberal humanism towards revolutionary socialism.  It will then examine how James mediated his revolutionary Marxist and Pan-Africanist agitation in 1930s Britain over questions such as Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia as well as writing his masterful work recovering the world historic significance of the Haitian Revolution, The Black Jacobins (1938).  If Eric Williams could later claim, “I had come, seen and conquered—at Oxford!” when he graduated with first-class honours in 1935, this paper will suggest that with the publication of The Black Jacobins, James could with equal legitimacy have claimed that he had come, seen, and intellectually conquered the larger world of imperial Britain.  

About the speaker: Christian Høgsbjerg is the author of C.L.R. James in Imperial Britain (Duke University Press, 2014), Chris Braithwaite: Mariner, Renegade and Castaway (Redwords, 2014) and the editor of C.L.R. James's play about the Haitian Revolution, Toussaint Louverture: The Story of the Only Successful Slave Revolt in History (Duke University Press, 2013).  He is a member of the editorial board of International Socialism

First published: 7 November 2014