November 11th 2018 marked the final centenary of the First World War. In an exhibition held at the Royal Geographical Society (with the IBG) between 17th December 2018 and 22nd January 2019 we presented new ways of thinking about the world that emerged from the ashes of that conflict. This website presents a virtual exhibition and permanent archive of that event (including links to extra resources and free-to-access further reading) and the arguments it made regarding the geographies of internationalism in the post-war years.
Directly reacting against the nationalism that had violently pitched states against each other, the interwar period was marked by a renewed enthusiasm for internationalism. This internationalism emphasised the bonds of humanity, and the shared projects of betterment that could unite people across national borders. Popular assumptions about interwar internationalism are that it was dominated by liberal, European institutions, and that it failed to prevent another war. In this virtual exhibition, we present a new perspective.
We emphasise the international geography of internationalism. Nations and networks of individuals created their own versions of internationalism and left their imprint on its many varieties. These could be radical or imperial, as much as liberal, and served very different political ends, including the destruction of empires, or their perpetuation. Despite these differences, we argue that these internationalisms functioned through shared spaces, which we present through four geographical frames.
First, we use 12 scales to show how internationalism functioned from the global, to the urban, to the intimate. Second, we show how internationalism depended upon the labour of unacknowledged workers (often women), toiling behind the scenes. Third, we show how interwar London functioned as a malleable space of internationalism, using its infrastructure of public and private spaces. Finally, we show how film provided a way of recording and publicising the spaces of internationalism, creating a rich archive of its people and places.
This research was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, supported by the RGS-IBG, and was led by Stephen Legg, Mike Heffernan and Jake Hodder from the School of Geography, University of Nottingham. Much of the material here is drawn from their research on three types of interwar international conferencing: the India Round Table Conference; the Pan-African Congresses; and the meetings of the League of Nations. Benjamin Thorpe led the coordination of the exhibition and this website.
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