The Golden Talking-Shop: The Oxford Union Debates Empire, World War, Revolution, and Women

Hardcover | November 26, 2016

byEdward Pearce

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In the late 1890s, Britain was basking in the high noon of empire, albeit with the sobering experience of the Boer War just around the corner. By 1956, the year of the Suez debacle and less than a lifetime later, the age of empire was drawing rapidly to a close and Britain's position as anindependent great power was over. In between, the country had experienced two devastating world wars. India - the jewel in her imperial crown - had gained independence. And there had been far-reaching changes on the domestic front: the birth of the welfare state, full men's (and eventually women's)suffrage, and the foundation of the National Health Service, to name but a few. Throughout this momentous period, the Oxford Union, the world's most famous debating society, continued to meet to debate and discuss the changing world around them. Sometimes their debates had important repercussions in the wider world - such as the notorious "King and Country" debate of 1933 whichmade headlines around the globe and which Winston Churchill described as that "abject, squalid, shameless avowal." More often than not, the debates had merely a local impact, even if among the debaters were many of the leaders, thinkers, and opinion formers of the future, figures such as HaroldMacmillan, Archbishop Temple, Edward Heath, and Tony Benn.In The Golden Talking Shop, former Parliamentary sketch writer (and Union member) Edward Pearce tells the story of Britain - and the world - in the first half of the twentieth century as seen from the perspective of these Union debates: sometimes shocking, sometimes wittily amusing, and often both.The students do most of the talking, along the way revealing the changing preoccupations, prejudices, and assumptions of their changing times. A distinct pre-First World War fashion for Social Darwinism is in due course replaced by a widespread 1930s penchant for Stalinism, with civilized opinionreliably breaking in on occasion too. Above all, browsing these debates, taken straight from another age, gives the reader a vivid, sometimes piquant, sense of a Britain which is now passing from living memory - and serves as a powerful reminder of the ways in which the past and its attitudesreally are a foreign country.

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In the late 1890s, Britain was basking in the high noon of empire, albeit with the sobering experience of the Boer War just around the corner. By 1956, the year of the Suez debacle and less than a lifetime later, the age of empire was drawing rapidly to a close and Britain's position as anindependent great power was over. In between, t...

A member of the Oxford Union in his days as an undergraduate at Oxford, in the years since Edward Pearce has had a long and distinguished career as a Parliamentary sketch writer for the Daily Telegraph and the New Statesman and as a columnist for the Guardian and the Scotsman, with intermittent appearances as a theatre critic throughou...

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:592 pagesPublished:November 26, 2016Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0198717237

ISBN - 13:9780198717232

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Table of Contents

IntroductionEarly Days1. Our Empire 1896-18992. South Africa - Last, Late Prize 1899-19003. Chamberlain and Milner at War 1901-19054. Enter the Liberals 1905-19085. 'The Whole University Marching Down the High in Uniform' 1909-19106. Mourning their Lordships, Worrying about Women 19117. Wales, Women, and Balkan War 1912-19138. On the Eve 1913-19149. The Threshold of the New 1919-192110. The Consequences of the Peace 1921-192211. The Rather Circumspect New World 1922-192512. Imperial Fatigue and New Clouds 1926-193013. The Old Familiar Faces 1930-193514. We go into the Dark 1935-194015. The Sunlit Uplands Almost 1945-194916. All Sorts of Dangerous Modern Ideas 1949-195117. The Old Order Not Changing Very Much 1951-195518. Invading Countries is Wrong 1955-1956Envoi