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Republicanism in Action in the British Empire and the Commonwealth: Theories, Practices and Exchanges

Publié le 9 octobre 2023 Mis à jour le 9 octobre 2023

Workshop 2: Republicanism in the Age of Imperialism (1838-1931)


du 16 février 2024 au 17 février 2024

SOAS (central London) & UCL

Description of the project: general scope and perspectives

This series of workshops in Paris and London aims to explore republicanism in the former British Empire and the Commonwealth and how it has fueled aspirations to independence and played a part in the nation-building process from the American Revolution onward. Scholars have previously theorised the emergence in the early modern era of a republican conception of liberty defined as “non-domination” (Pettit, 1997, Skinner 1998, Kriegel 1998) and distinct from the liberal conception of liberty. Some major studies have evidenced its circulation in the transatlantic space (Pocock 1975) and on the European continent (Skinner and Van Gelderen 2002, Hammersley 2010). But while the impact of republican ideas and practices in early modern revolutions - England (1642-60), Corsica (1729-69), Northern America (1776-1787), France (1789-99), Brabant (1789-90), Haiti (1791-1804) and Latin America (1808-33) - has been widely explored, their manifestations within the British Empire and the Commonwealth beyond the transatlantic space has only just begun to receive attention in a new generation of scholarship (Getachew 2019, Hamilton 2014, Ramgotra 2017, Hazareesingh 2020).
We seek to examine how the concept and language of republican liberty have informed anti-colonial movements, and how the notions of self-determination, popular sovereignty, civic participation translated into various languages and cultures. Another possible angle would be to study propositions for land reform aiming at a more equal distribution of goods within what is conceived as a common-wealth, while sometimes legitimizing the appropriation of lands belonging to indigenous peoples. We are therefore interested in the analysis of various republican corpuses, their sources and reception, as well as the study of intellectual and political networks which favoured the circulation of such principles from one part of the Empire and the Commonwealth to the next.
12-13 June 2023  Workshop 1 - Republicanism in the Age of Revolutions (1776-1838), Campus Condorcet, Paris.
16-17 February 2024  Workshop 2 - Republicanism in the Age of Imperialism (1838-1931), SOAS, London.
September 2024  Workshop 3 - Republicanism in the Age of Decolonisation (1931-2023), Paris Nanterre.


This is the second in a series of three workshops that aim to explore the circulation and implementation of the republican idea in the British Empire from the rebellions of upper and lower Canada (1837-38) and Bengal (1857) to the Statute of Westminster. The workshops will consider questions such as:
  • How have theories of republicanism emerged, circulated, and evolved in the British empire? How have such theories intersected with ideas of nation, empire, and commonwealth? How has republicanism combined or clashed with other ideas such as federalism, liberalism, socialism, pacifism, and racism?
  • How have practices of republicanism been employed in the British Empire? How have movements of resistance, independence and decolonisation transformed republicanism? How has the republican idea been resisted or avoided?
  • How have such theories and practices been exchanged between men and women within the British Empire? How have republican ideas circulated, diffused, and disseminated?
  • What was the role of institutions such as universities, trade unions, political organisations, masonic lodges, and press organs?
The second workshop will thus explore how republicanism shaped the political discourse of Britain and its empire during the Age of Imperialism. We will welcome papers that address the following topics and take a diversity of approaches to:
  • The circulation of republican theories in Britain and its empire and dominions, including (but not limited to) Australasia, Asia, Africa, Canada, the Caribbean and Ireland.
  • The transformative influence of anti-colonial movements on conceptions of republicanism.
  • The importance of new ideas of dominion, self-government, imperial federation and commonwealth.
  • The exchange of republican theories and ideas, and their circulation through institutions such as universities, trade unions, political organizations, masonic lodges, and the press.

This workshop will be held at SOAS (central London) and UCL on Friday 16-Saturday 17 February 2024. Please submit a 250-word abstract and a short CV to republicanisminaction@gmail.com by 1 November 2023.

Select bibliography

Getachew, Adom, Worldmaking After Empire: The Rise and Fall of Self-determination, Princeton University Press, 2019.
Getachew, ‘Universalism After the Post-colonial Turn: Interpreting the Haitian Revolution’ Political Theory, 44:6 (2016), 821-845.
Hazareesingh, Sudhir, Toussaint-Louverture, Flammarion, 2020.
Kriegel, Blandine, Philosophie de la république, Plon, 1998.
Petit, Philip, Republicanism : A theory of Freedom and Government, Oxford University Press, 1997.
Pocock, John Greville Agard, The Machiavellian Moment. Florentine Political Thought and the Atlantic Republican Tradition, Princeton University Press, 1975.
Ramgotra, Manjeet, 'Post-Colonial Republicanism and the Revival of a Paradigm', The Good Society, 26 (1), 2018, 34-54.
Ramgotra, Manjeet, 'India’s Republican Moment: Freedom in Nehru’s Political Thought.' In: Bhatia, Udit, (ed.), The Indian Constituent Assembly: Deliberations on Democracy, Routledge India, 2017, 196-221.
Skinner, Quentin, Liberty before Liberalism, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Skinner, Quentin, Van Gelderen, Martin, Republicanism. A Shared European Heritage, Cambridge University Press, 2002, 2 vols.
Vajpeyi, Ananya, Righteous Republic. The Political Foundations of Modern India, Harvard University Press, 2012.
Partenaires :
  • Campus Condorcet
  • Université Paris 8, laboratoire TransCrit
  • Université Paris Nanterre, laboratoire CREA
  • University College London
  • School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London
  • Centre de Recherches en Civilisation britannique

Mis à jour le 09 octobre 2023