Richard Toye

Richard Toye

I am Professor of Modern History at the University of Exeter. I am Lead Educator on the FutureLearn course Empire: the Controversies of British Imperialism.

Location Exeter, UK.


  • Freeden needs to have a an "immediate impact" says that propaganda offers a "quick fix". But surely the most powerful propaganda is that which has a cumulative impact over time. This creates familiarity and eventually the unfamiliar becomes threatening and "unthinkable".

    In order to understand where Freeden's account of ideology fits unto that of other...

  • Alathea, I don't have the figures to hand, but I can say that a high proportion of people made at least one comment.

  • Many thanks for sharing this very interesting and thoughtful blog post.

  • Many thanks for all these kind and generous comments - much appreciated.

  • Thanks for your comments, Ian. I don't think that there is *necessarily* a problem with using words that have negative connotations - in my personal opinion there are some cases where the term "neo-imperialism" is justified, and many cases where "imperialism" is. My point was that we need to ensure that we use them with analytical rigour.

  • The course map shows that participants are mainly based in North America and Western Europe, but, as you say, not exclusively:

  • Agreed - it's a fascinating book.

  • The final feedback video is now up!

  • Here's an article about some current controversy over the legacy of German colonialism in Namibia. Not about the British Empire, obviously, but I thought people might find it interesting:

  • Yes, it is very good for us, as historians, to engage in discussion with people outside academia. I think this is a somewhat different kind of MOOC from some others, in that we are not just trying to communicate a fixed body of knowledge and test you on it, but to interact and debate. So, although Altbach does make important points, I do have a degree of...

  • Phil, you make a really important point about the nature of the Empire. As you suggest, there were many things that the civil servants in Whitehall were not able to control and often did not attempt to control.

  • I'm looking forward to filming the final feedback video tomorrow with Marc Palen and Rob Fletcher.

  • The persistence of these family metaphors is very interesting. They were extremely common during the heyday of Empire - body/health metaphors too. This was not restricted to the British though - other European empires tended to use this kind of language too.

  • Thanks for this interesting perspective.

  • Yes, it will be very interesting to see what the newly discovered files contain. Quite a lot of it may turn out to be duplication of material that is already open, but there remains the possibility of some important new discoveries.

  • Yes, Europe is a crucial issue. Britain's first application to join the EEC in 1961 was an important moment. It's possible to find some quite interesting adverts for NZ products being sold in Britain in the 1970s which claim that NZ was the country in the world most like Britain.

  • In case anyone didn't spot it, we added a new video in step 6.6 today, in which I interview Professor James mark about the Cold War and decolonization:

  • Powell seems to have been extraordinarily affected by Indian independence in 1947 - almost traumatised by it.

  • The text of my chapter in the Butler and Stockwell "Wind of Change" volume mentioned above is available here for free:

  • I have just come across an article which argues that MOOCs themselves are a form of neo-colonialism. It is by Philip G. Altbach. He argues:

    "In fields such as literature and philosophy, most courses reflect
    Western traditions of knowledge, the Western literature canon, and Western
    philosophical assumptions. The social sciences reflect Western...

  • The European point is very interesting. At the slight risk of moving away from the subject matter of the course, here is a link to the Eurobarometer site, which measures public opinion on Europe in a variety of countries.

    It's too bad that someone didn't do something similar for the Empire while it was up...

  • Many thanks for all these very interesting comments and examples.

  • Me too!

  • Thanks, David! And as you say, the debate is very healthy and everyone's comments are appreciated.

  • Ann, I have made several comments every day, except weekends, and last Friday, when I had a day off. Other educators have been contributing too. I think I responded to you directly a couple of times. We also employed a PhD student to help deal with the volume of comments, which has been immense. we have also had the feedback videos.

  • Interesting questions! He really did manage to surprise a lot of people at home, many of whom had assumed that he would simply buddy up with the Apartheid regime. I'm not, perhaps, Macmillan's greatest fan but I do think this speech was astonishingly brave. I'm not sure if we already link out to it somewhere, but people may find this article by Frank Myers...

  • Welcome to the final week, everybody!

  • Those of you interested in exploring the theme of Propaganda might be interested in this forthcoming FutureLearn course run by the University of Nottingham in collaboration with the British Library:

  • As it's the school holidays I'll be taking a day off work on Friday to look after my children, so I'll probably not be logging in, but I look forward to reconnecting with you all next week.

  • Yes - I think you have a point!

  • Great! I think the complexities of this issue are such that we may well doubt how many of the people who lived through these controversies (and perhaps participated in them) really understood it all themselves.

  • Of all the tariff reform/free trade posters I know, I think this is the one that is most shocking:;sort:Shelfmark%2CDate;lc:ODLodl~6~6&mi=0&trs=1

    However, the Liberals were also often prone to racism and xenophobia, including...

  • Thanks, Penny - really glad you're enjoying it.

  • I filmed the feedback video with Paul Young and Robert Fletcher this morning - an interesting discussion, at least from my point of view! It will go up tomorrow, in the usual place.

  • That's a good way of putting it!

  • Indeed! Also popular music hall songs, emphasised by John Mackenzie.

  • Many thanks for all these great comments and examples.

  • That's a fascinating example - thanks for sharing.

  • Yes - it's brilliant!

  • Yes, music could definitely count, I think.

  • Thanks for all these comments.

  • What Simon's referring to, and what the cartoon obliquely refers to, is a plan put forward by Lord Beaverbrook in the early 1930s. What "Empire Free Trade" in this sense meant was putting up trade barriers against countries outside the Empire and removing them within; for in fact there was not complete free trade within the Empire because countries such as...

  • It might be worth noting here that universal suffrage (at the age of 21) was only introduced in 1928. Yet it is certainly true that those who, prior to that, could not vote, did have other ways of expressing support for (or opposition to) Empire, e.g. by attending mass meetings and celebrations.