New journal article: ‘“We’re full”: Capacity, Finitude, and British Landscapes, 1945‐1979’

I’m very excited that my journal article ‘“We’re full”: Capacity, Finitude, and British Landscapes, 1945‐1979’ has been published today in the Australian Journal of Politics and History.

This article synthesises ideas from two conference papers; one I presented at a collaborative symposium between the University of Melbourne, University of Glasgow, and University of Tianjin on “Town and Country in Historical Perspective” in 2016; and a more theoretically developed version with more focus on Powellite rhetoric, at the Australasian Association for European History conference hosted by Monash University in 2017.

The article forms part of a special issue arising from the conference programme, edited by Elizabeth Roberts-Pedersen and Andrew Webber, and it is an extremely well curated lineup of articles. It is especially exciting to have my article appear alongside one by Tony Ballantyne, which was based on his fascinating keynote presentation “Entanglements and Disentanglements: Thinking Historiographically About Britain, Empire, and Europe in the Context of Brexit.”

The abstract of my article is as follows:

The language of urban fullness and finitude has long had an active life in British politics and popular culture. After 1945, however, ideas of the finite, overspilling British city, teeming with inert masses of working‐class people, drove the development of paternalistic state urban reconstruction and new town programmes. More infamously, post‐war immigration anxieties often used a sinister metaphorical language of flooding and drowning to describe the arrival of people from Commonwealth countries as catastrophic. Despite this shared conceptualisation of British landscapes as finite, embattled, inert spaces, the interrelationships between these ideas of “human floods” have largely been treated separately by historians. This article proposes that these histories can be traced in terms of their shared cultural logic of landscape finitude and capacity, as part of a post‐imperial reimagining of heritage and national identity. Through reading representations of post‐war immigration and urban overcrowding together, a wider preservationist political logic can be seen entrenching and defending ideas of urban and national finitude against a range of post‐imperial ideological and demographic change. Through tracing symbolic representations of borders and population fullness, this paper gestures towards a more integrated history of post‐imperial landscape politics and their role in shaping policies and practices of exclusion in post‐war Britain.

It forms the first step towards a wider project which will hopefully develop into a postdoctoral fellowship and/or a second monograph.

If you are interested in reading this article but are unable to access it through a university or library subscription, please feel free to email me or contact me via Twitter.

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