The Empire's New Clothes: thinking about the Commonwealth in the era of Brexit

Hosted by LSE IDEAS and the Department of International History (LSE)

Hong Kong Theatre, Clement House, LSE


Professor Philip Murphy

Professor Philip Murphy



Dr Joanna Lewis

Dr Joanna Lewis

Associate Professor at the Department of International History

In conversation with the leading historian of the British Empire, Dr Joanna Lewis, the director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Professor Philip Murphy, will discuss his latest book, ‘The Empire’s New Clothes: the Myth of the Commonwealth.’ Professor Murphy will explain what prompted him to write the book, and why he has come to regard the Commonwealth as an unhelpful mirage in British foreign policy.

The discussion will consider the ways in which the Commonwealth and other legacies of Empire featured in the debate about Brexit and Britain’s broader place in the world. It will examine how the organisation functions, its periodic attempts to re-invent itself, and its close association with the Royal Family. Finally, it will reflect on the chances of the Commonwealth successfully adapting to the challenges of the 21st century.

Philip Murphy (@philipvmurphy) is Professor of British and Commonwealth History at the University of London and Director of the Institute of Commonwealth Studies (ICwS). His first book, Party Politics and Decolonization (1995), was a study of the Conservative party and British withdrawal from Africa. He has subsequently published a biography of the British Colonial Secretary, Alan Lennox-Boyd (1999), the Central Africa volume in the series British Documents on the End of Empire (2005) and a study of the relationship between the British royal family and the Commonwealth, Monarchy and the End of Empire (2013). His latest book, The Empire’s New Clothes: The Myth of the Commonwealth, was published by Hurst in April 2018. He is also joint editor of the Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. Alongside British Imperial History, he also has a long-standing interest in intelligence history, and in international intelligence links. 

Dr Joanna Lewis is an Associate Professor at the Department of International History (LSE), winner of LSE Institute of Global Affairs-Rockefeller Grant 2018-19. Her book published in January 2017 Empire of Sentiment has been put forward by Cambridge University Press for the 2019 Wolfson History Prize.

LSE IDEAS (@lseideas) is LSE's foreign policy think tank. We connect academic knowledge of diplomacy and strategy with the people who use it.

LSE's Department of International History (@lsehistory) teaches and conducts research on the international history of Britain, Europe and the world from the early modern era up to the present day.

Twitter Hashtag for this event: #LSEMurphy


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