UCL Institute of the Americas


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

03 June 2015, 5:30 pm–7:30 pm

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UCL Institute of the Americas


UCL Institute of the Americas, 51 Gordon Square, London WC1H 0PN

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Christian Høgsbjerg - Together with other critical Pan-Africanist figures such as his fellow compatriot George Padmore, the Trinidadian Marxist C.L.R. James led from the front as an ideological agitator in the fight against British imperialist mythology and propaganda during the 1930s.

This paper will explore how James 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 James's anti-colonialist agitation in 1930s Britain over questions such as Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia and in solidarity with the Caribbean labour rebellions of the 1930s as well as 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.  

Christian Høgsbjerg has a doctorate in History from the University of York and 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 currently co-editing two volumes, The Black Jacobins Reader and Celebrating C.L.R. James in Hackney, London.