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Splendid Isolation? Insularity in British History


4–5 May 2018

Conveners: Wencke Meteling (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Andrea Wiegeshoff (Philipps-Universität Marburg), Christiane Eisenberg (HU Berlin) and Hannes Ziegler (GHI London)
Venue: Centre for British Studies (Großbritannienzentrum) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin


The conference will explore the interrelationship between isolation and connection of the British Isles in an epoch-spanning and interdisciplinary approach. Focussing on politics and cultures of ‘islandness’, it will discuss the place and the specific meaning of the island situation from early modern times to the looming Brexit of today. The conference seeks to investigate contexts in which ‘islandness’ was referred to, explore shifting meanings attached to this notion, and examine the actors who made use of the ‘island argument’, their specific interests and practices. This includes, first of all and on a general level, tensions between connectivity and isolation in the British context. Moreover, we would like to chart the powerful but often consciously misleading claim of unity attached to the island idea. Either strategically employed or unconsciously adopted, the island notion is prone to obscuring both the internal tensions of the British Isles and the actual dominance of England with regard to questions of national identity as well as external tensions regarding geopolitical expansion and colonisation in the context of the British Empire. A critical reading of the island idea in these contexts and in relation to specific projects, policies and practices might provide new insights into the processes of nation-building and Empire.

The conference will be held 4–5 May 2018 at the Centre for British Studies (Großbritannienzentrum) at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is organised in conjunction with the German Association for British Studies and is supported by the Fritz-Thyssen-Foundation.

This conference is preceded by a panel discussion (in German) on 3 May 2018: Abschied vom Kontinent? Der Brexit aus historischer und aktueller Perspektive 


Call for papers (PDF file)

Conference programme (PDF file)

Conference report (PDF file), published in: GHIL Bulletin 40 (2018), Vol 2